The Beneficial Omega-6 Fatty AcidJanuary 2011
By Kirk Stokel
A Natural Asthma Intervention
Asthma is closely related to eczema in being an inflammatory condition triggered by inflammatory cytokines, particularly leukotrienes.66 Inhibitors of leukotrienes and their receptors are in widespread use in asthma management, and since GLA suppresses leukotriene production, it is natural to wonder whether GLA would be helpful in asthma as well.21,66
In a placebo-controlled trial, daily consumption of 750-1,130 mg GLA plus 500-750 mg eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) improved self-reported asthma status and reduced reliance on “rescue” inhaler drugs in adults with mild-to-moderate asthma.3 A related study also demonstrated an improved asthma-related quality of life following supplementation.67
Rheumatoid Arthritis Relief
GLA shows great promise in managing symptoms of autoimmune conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and may prove an attractive alternative to potentially toxic nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).68,69 In randomized, placebo-controlled studies of RA patients with active symptoms, treatment with GLA (1,400-2,800 mg per day) reduced the number of tender and swollen joints and lowered pain and tenderness scores.4,70
Laboratory research reveals that GLA treatment of immune cells from RA patients decreases production of the inflammatory cytokine IL-1beta by about 40% while leaving normal immune function of the cells intact;71 this finding has also been demonstrated in human research.72 GLA from borage oil triggers a pathway that suppresses a different inflammatory cytokine, TNF-alpha.73 Experts have concluded that “Strong support exists for gamma linolenic acid (GLA) for pain of rheumatoid arthritis.”74 Their findings suggested doses of at least 1,400 mg per day for good results.14
Gamma linolenic acid or GLA is an omega-6 essential fatty acid with overlooked potent benefits for human health. Because of an age-related decline in activity of enzymes that naturally produce GLA from precursor fats in our diet, we risk developing GLA deficiency with age. Too little GLA tips the balance of inflammatory factors called cytokines in our bodies towards increasing inflammation, and with it increasing risk for chronic disease. GLA supplementation can overcome this deficiency, providing the anti-inflammatory stimulus we need to control and even prevent diseases such as eczema, asthma, rheumatoid arthritis, and major killers such as cardiovascular disease and cancer.
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