JACKSONVILLE, FLORIDA. Supplementation with gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) found in borage oil and evening primrose oil reduces the symptoms of chronic inflammatory diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and atopic dermatitis. It is believed that the transformation of GLA to DGLA (dihomo-gamma- linolenic acid) in the inflammatory cells (white blood cells) helps dampen the inflammatory effects of AA (arachidonic acid). Unfortunately, there is a fly in the ointment. While GLA supplementation results in a decrease in AA in the inflammatory cells, it also causes, somewhat paradoxically, a very significant increase in AA in the blood serum itself. A high blood level of AA is associated with an increased risk of blood clotting and is a potent risk factor for heart disease.
Researchers at the Mayo Clinic now report that the potentially harmful effects of GLA supplementation can be eliminated by simultaneous supplementation with fish oils. Their small clinical trial involved a control group of 2 healthy men and 2 healthy women who consumed a controlled diet while supplementing with 3 grams/day of GLA (5 capsules of borage oil morning and evening). The active treatment group (5 women and 7 men) followed the same protocol with the addition of 3 grams/day of EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) taken in the form of 5 capsules of concentrated fish oil (each capsule containing 600 mg of EPA and 280 mg of DHA (docosahexaenoic acid). After 3 weeks of supplementation samples of white blood cells and samples of blood serum were analyzed to determine fatty acid profiles. Both groups experienced a marked increase in beneficial DGLA in their white blood cells. The control group (GLA supplementation only) also saw a significant increase in detrimental AA in their blood serum, but no such increase was observed in the group taking fish oils as well.
The researchers concluded that the detrimental effects of GLA supplementation (found in borage oil) can be avoided by adding fish oils to the supplementation regimen. They encouraged clinicians, patients, pharmaceutical and nutraceutical companies to to fully understand the natural dietary supplements that they are increasingly utilizing in order to avoid possible complications.
Barham, J. Brooke, et al. Addition of eicosapentaenoic acid to gamma-linolenic acid: supplemented diets prevent serum arachidonic acid accumulation in humans. Journal of Nutrition, Vol. 130, 2000, pp. 1925-31