In this next multi-part article, I will take a look at a lesser-known omega-6 fatty acid called “gamma linolenic acid.” It is best known by its simple three-letter acronym, GLA. It has a flurry of roles in the body, and as such is believed to fight serious diseases — including cancer. In part one, I will introduce this healthful fat before we move on to the results of studies.
GLA, an omega-6 fat, is primarily found in vegetable oils, including evening primrose, borage oil, hemp seed oil, and blackcurrant seed oil. Blackcurrant seed oil has between 15% and 20% GLA; borage seed between 20% and 27%; and evening primrose between seven percent and 14%.
While evening primrose seems the weakest, it also contains up to 80% linoleic acid and vitamin E. Linoleic acid is another omega-6 fatty acid, and the body turns it into GLA. In the typical diet, we eat 10 times more linoleic acid than we need. This leads to an unbalanced mix of omega-6s and omega-3s. The ideal ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 is between 1:1 and less than 4:1. This is an important point, because this imbalance may contribute to heart disease, cancer, osteoporosis, asthma, and arthritis.
Yet GLA remains an important substance, capable of fighting conditions in the body. The body uses it to boost up its protection against inflammation and irregular growth of cells (leading to the potential in fighting cancer). Some of the precise ways it works include the following:
— Needed by body to make a substance that stops the immune system from triggering inflammation; this makes it good for autoimmune conditions, particularly rheumatoid arthritis.
— Has an anti-estrogen effect, making it useful in chemotherapy for breast cancer
— Lowers triglyceride levels (fats in the blood)
— Reverses diseases caused by GLA deficiency: includes attention deficit hyperactivity disorder in kids and premenstrual syndrome in women
— Has an anti-cancer effect: reduces the growth of tumor cells
— Relaxes smooth muscles, making it beneficial for sufferers of asthma and other lung diseases