A Body of Evidence for a Body on Borage

Author: Artur Klimaszewski, MD

Genetically, we are virtually identical to our “hunter-gatherer” ancestors, yet the food we eat is a far cry from their diets. Nutritional research shows the average person eats ten times more saturated fat and hundreds of times more trans fatty acids than our prehistoric counterparts. So is it too late to save yourself from the over-consumption of bad fats? Researchers don’t think so. Supplementation with the “good” fat in borage oil, known as GLA, restores the natural balance our bodies need for good health. Research now shows how balancing these fats is a crucial factor in treating many of today’s common health problems.

Rheumatoid Arthritis

Fifteen years of research, including studies by the University of Massachusetts and Boston’s Shriner’s Hospital for Children, has established that supplementation with GLA reduces symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis, and juvenile rheumatoid arthritis. GLA has the ability to reduce pain and joint stiffness, decrease the number of affected joints, and allow patients to reduce their dosage of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) through its effect on the body’s ability to reduce inflammation. In fact, the Arthritis Foundation now recommends GLA supplementation.

Skin Deep

With the number of moisturizers, anti-aging creams, and cosmetic products boasting natural ingredients, it is no surprise the scientific community has begun to focus on the rejuvenating capabilities of GLA. In the last 20 years, researchers have discovered skin conditions such as eczema and psoriasis are linked to GLA deficiencies, and are treatable through oral and/or topical doses of borage oil. A 1997 study at the University of Italy found a significant reduction in all eczema symptoms, including a decrease in itching of nearly 90%. The evidence is so strong that the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology and the British Journal of Dermatology have both published various studies reporting benefits for skin from GLA.

Diabetic Neuropathy

Between 60% and 70% of diabetics have some form of neuropathy – nerve damage caused by a prolonged imbalance in blood glucose levels. Symptoms range from numbness and pain in the hands, feet, or legs to digestive dysfunction, dizziness, and in extreme cases; amputations. With no satisfactory conventional medical treatment available, scientists have turned to GLA as a natural alternative. Recent research has concluded nearly 40% of patients responding to GLA supplementation actually experience a reversal in the effects of diabetic neuropathy, or find progression of the disease stops altogether.

Cardiovascular Disease

Thanks to science, modifying our diets is now a common practice in treating cardiovascular disease, including balancing good and bad fats. Today GLA is linked to correcting blood cholesterol levels, and interfering with the growth of atherosclerotic plaque, one of the leading causes of heart disease. Furthermore, the Journal of Human Hypertension recently reported placebo patients experienced almost double the increase in blood pressure during experimental stress than patients taking GLA. Evidence is mounting on the benefits of GLA in reducing stress-related high blood pressure.

Women’s Health

Most women will experience symptoms of PMS, menopause, or both at some point in their lives. For the up to 90% of women who suffer from some form of PMS, traditional medicine has yet to come up with a successful treatment. But new evidence supports the link between GLA deficiency and common PMS symptoms like breast tenderness, bloating, fluid retention, moodiness and irritability. For the nearly 85% of women who suffer from menopause symptoms, GLA has been found to relieve nighttime flushes, breast pain, and inflammation. This evidence suggests GLA supplementation can reduce and even prevent a combination of symptoms, providing a natural solution for these common problems.

Cancer

The scientific community is now scrutinizing borage and GLA to determine the significance of their role in preventing breast, colon, stomach, and other cancers. One such study found terminally ill pancreatic cancer patients tripled their life expectancy with extensive GLA supplementation. There is also evidence that tumor growth and metastasis can be suppressed by GLA, providing real hope for cancer patients and their families.

Immune System

More and more studies are being conducted on the effects good fats have on supporting the body’s immune system. This includes a recent trial finding GLA and EPA supplementation reduces chronic fatigue. Scientists know that viral infections and illnesses hinder the conversion of LA to GLA, and they have now connected supplementation with GLA to an increase in immune defences.

If we look at the excess bad fat in our diets and the benefits we miss from good fats like GLA, we will start to look at EFAs in a new light: fat has a purpose. A body on borage is a body in balance.