GLA: A Healthy Omega-6 Fatty Acid
There is some concern that we’re consuming more omega-6s than we should be in our diet. Articles suggest that consuming too much omega-6 fatty acid can promote inflammation, implying that it might not be good for us. This generalization questions the benefits of all types of omega-6 fatty acids. While it’s true that excess consumption of some types of omega-6 fatty acids can promote inflammation, such as Arachidonic Acid (AA), it’s not the case for all omega-6 fatty acids – particularly not Gama-linolenic Acid (GLA).
In our diet, the most commonly consumed omega-6 fatty acid is Arachidonic Acid (AA) found in meats, eggs and dairy products. This particular omega-6 fatty acid is vital for muscle growth, brain development and maintaining a healthy nervous system; but our body does not require much of this omega active and when consumed in excess, it can promote inflammation. We also consume a high amount of another omega-6 fatty acid called Linoleic acid (LA) found in nuts, butter, seeds and vegetable oils. Usually this fatty acid gets digested in our body and converted to another omega-6 fatty acid, GLA, delivering a range of health benefits arising from its anti-inflammatory effects. However, when we have an excess of AA in our body, it prevents LA from converting into GLA. When LA is not converted to GLA, it can pose a problem, as balance between pro-inflammatory and anti-inflammatory nutrients is not maintained in our body. Because of this, an excess of AA can cause deficiency in GLA. When we consume anti-inflammatory nutrients such as GLA, it balances the inflammatory properties of AA and other pro-inflammatory nutrients.
A common misconception is that as our diet already contains too much omega-6, so we don’t need to supplement with GLA. But when compared to other omega-6 fatty acids, GLA provides a completely different set of benefits with its much-needed anti-inflammatory properties. As mentioned, an excess of some types of omega-6 fatty acids can cause abnormal inflammation in our body, and we need GLA to neutralize and reverse this effect. The primary sources of GLA are borage, evening primrose, echium, black currant seed and hempseed. Of all these sources, borage contains the highest amount of naturally occurring GLA. Unlike other omega-6 fatty acids we don’t have to worry about consuming too much GLA. Studies conducted using borage oil show that GLA is safe, even in larger amounts.