GLA and Inflammation

Inflammation plays an important role in our health. People tend to consider inflammation is harmful to the body, however, a more balanced view is that the body actually need it to get rid of foreign infection or repair itself following an injury. It is when the inflammatory response becomes excessive or uncontrolled that it becomes hard to control or lead to chronic inflammatory conditions.

Inflammatory Response

  • local redness
  • swelling
  • pain
  • heat
  • impairment or loss of function

Inflammation mediators

The above inflammatory response is induced and regulated by a number of chemical mediators, including eicosanoids, histamine, complement proteins...etc. Many anti-inflammatory therapies involve regulating these mediators, for example, regulation of eicosanoid synthesis, particularly prostaglandins and leukotrienes, is a typical mechanism for controlling inflammation.

Anti-inflammatory properties of GLA

Not all prostaglandins are pro-inflammatory, 3-series & 1-series prostaglandins derived from EPA (omega-3) & GLA (omega-6) are anti-inflammatory; while 2-series prostaglandin derived from AA(omega-6) is pro-inflammatory (see "eicosanoids" and "metabolic pathway of essential fatty acids").

GLA, through conversion to DGLA, produces a class of eicosanoids called PGE1, that

  • are Anti-inflammatory
  • Dilates blood vessles
  • Reduces blood clotting and therefore improve blood flow

Several clinical trials have confirmed that GLA reduces inflammation, tender joint scores, morning stiffness and reduces the requirement of NSAID (Non-steriodal Anti-Inflammatory Drug)1. GLA serves as a synergistic agent when combined with NSAIDs, it also prevents the common gastric side effects of NSAIDs.2

  1. R. Kapoor et al., Gamma Linolenic Acid: An Antiinflammatory Omega-6 Fatty Acid, Current Pharmaceutical Biotechnology, 2006; 7: 531-534.
  2. Y.S. Huang et al., Digestion, 1987 (36): 36-41.