Gamma linolenic acid (GLA) is an omega-6 fatty acid which is considered to be an “essential” fatty acid because the body needs it for good health. Omega-6 fatty acids work along with omega-3 fatty acids in the body to promote good brain function as well as normal growth and development.
Our bodies do not make omega-6 fatty acids, which means they must come from the foods we eat. In addition to GLA, there are several other omega-6 fatty acids. Most, including linoleic acid (LA), come from vegetable oils or egg yolks. Linoleic acid can be converted in the body to produce GLA. GLA can also be found in oils from certain plants including primrose oil, borage oil, and black currant seed oil.
Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids appear to balance each other in a healthy diet. While omega-3's tend to reduce inflammation, some omega-6 fatty acids can cause or promote inflammation. So it is important to have a healthy balance of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids in the diet. Most people get substantial doses of omega-6 fatty acids in their regular diet and therefore do not need to take GLA supplements. Unfortunately, most of these omega-6's come from less-healthful sources that may promote inflammation.
Why gamma linolenic acid is used
GLA is sometimes promoted as helping relieve rheumatoid arthritis (RA) symptoms because it is one of the omega-6 fatty acids that may help reduce inflammation. Some studies indicate GLA can help relieve stiffness and joint pain associated with RA which may decrease the need for NSAID pain relievers.
GLA is also used by the body to produce prostaglandins, which are substances similar to hormones. Prostaglandins contribute to many functions in the body, including regulating the immune system. Some studies suggest that GLA may stop or slow the growth of cancer cells, but research is not conclusive. Other studies show that breast cancer patients who took GLA along with the cancer drug tamoxifen received more benefits from the tamoxifen than patients who took the drug alone.
Although GLA has not been proven effective for any of these conditions, it is believed by some to help with the following: