Gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) is an omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acid (EFA). It is almost completely and very rapidly converted to dihomo-gamma-linolenic acid (DGLA), which undergoes further metabolism to produce anti-inflammatory eicosanoids (series-1 prostanglandins and series-3 leukotrienes).

Studies have shown that GLA has significant health benefits when consumed regularly. GLA plays a beneficial role in areas such as

We may get GLA from 3 ways:

1. Conversion from LA to GLA inside our bodies.

2. Breast milk

3. Health supplements, such as evening primose oil, borage oil, black currant oil and the latest one that is extracted from microbial fermentation.

How does GLA work?

GLA improves microcirculation in the following ways:

  • Competes against Arachidonic acid (AA) to prevent and relieve inflammation
  • GLA is converted to dihomo-gamma-linolenic acid (DGLA), which produces anti-inflammatory eicosanoids like PGE1 (PGE1 expands blood vessels, reduces platelet aggregation, and prevent accumulation of bad lipids)
  • DGLA can also produce 15-HETrE which inhibits the formation of anti-inflammatory metabolites (LT4) produced by AA
  • DGLA is an important constituents of cell membrane, where it enhances the integrity and fluidity of cell membrance

Why do we need oral supplement of GLA if LA is converted to GLA inside the body?
It is true that the body should convert some LA to GLA, and in turn to produce beneficial eicosanoids. However, not everyone can efficiently convert LA to GLA.
Many people have difficulty converting LA to GLA due to an impairment in a critical enzyme known as Delta-6-Desaturase (D6D), which is associated with:
  • Diabetes
  • Ageing
  • Excessive consumption of alcohol
  • Vitamin deficiencies
  • Stress, lack of sleep
  • Malnutrition
  • Medication, preservatives
  • Diseases like dermatitis, premenstrual syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis, cancer and cardiovascular disease

Supplementation with GLA may therefore be an option for those who are not efficient at conversion.

Concentration of different sources of GLA1

GLA supplements table


1. D. Edward Barre, Potential of evening primose, borage, black currant, and fungal oils in human health, Ann Nutr Metab 2001; 45:47-57.