Gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) is an essential omega-6 fatty acid which is consider a, “good” omega-6 (EFA) in the omega-6 family that is found primarily in plant-based oils. EFAs cannot be made by the human body, but are essential to human health. This is why humans must obtain them from food. EFAs benefit the human because they are necessary for normal growth, brain function, development, stimulation of skin and hair growth, regulation of metabolism, maintenance of reproductive processes, and bone health.
Linoleic acid (LA) is another omega-6 fatty acid, which is found in cooking oils and processed foods; in which, is converted to Gamma-linolenic acid in the body. The average North American diet provides more than 10 times the necessary amount of linoleic acid and tends to have too much omega-6 fatty acids compared to omega-3 fatty acids, another important class of EFAs. This imbalance contributes to the development of long-term diseases such as heart disease, cancer, asthma, arthritis, and depression as well as, possibly, increased risk of infection. When linoleic acid is consumed in excess amount, they tend to be unhealthy because they promote inflammation; therefore, increases the risk of the diseases. On the contrary, Gamma-linolenic acid may actually reduce inflammation. This is because not all omega-6 fatty acids behave the same way.
Gamma-linolenic acid has been promoted as helping people with breast pain, skin problems, obesity, rheumatoid arthritis, heart disease, high blood pressure, premenstrual syndrome, and neurological problems related to diabetes. There are studies which have shown that Gamma-linolenic acid can terminate or hinder the growth of some cancer cell lines in tissue cultures in the lab and may be a great assist for other cancer drugs to help them work more efficient. On the other hand, there is not much evidence that Gamma-linolenic acid supplements are actually effective in treating or preventing cancer in humans. Human studies are currently being done to evaluate the role of this and other essential fatty acids on the growth of cancer cells.
Gamma linolenic acid is not toxic. However, Long-term use of Gamma-linolenic acid may lead to inflammation, blood clots, or lowered immune system functioning. Also, people who take anti-seizure (anticonvulsant) medicines should not take this because it has been reported to intensify a type of epilepsy.