Treating Arthritis and Inflammatory Conditions with Omega-6 Fatty Acids

Author: Gerald Fitz
The omega-6 fatty acids found in borage seed oil have been shown in clinical studies to have anti-inflammatory properties and the ability to reduce some effects of arthritis, allowing some individuals to take lower doses of pain medication. Known as “good fats,” omega-6 fatty acids can also be helpful in treating many other conditions, from encouraging the healthy growth of hair and skin to improving brain growth and function. Essential fatty acids, including omega-6 fatty acids, are necessary for human health but not produced in the body, so supplements, especially those containing healthy concentrations of gamma-linoleic acid (GLA), are a great way to obtain this important dietary component. Borage seed oil (derived from the seeds of the Borago officinalis) contains some of the highest levels of GLA of all seed oils.

While studies have not yet been far-reaching, the effects of GLA are not to be discounted. Though most omega-6 fatty acids are consumed through vegetable oils, the compounds are also found in a number of unique plants. GLA is plentiful in borage seed oil, evening primrose oil and black currant seed oil. Evening primrose was used by Native Americans and later used in Europe to cure many afflictions, particularly joint pain and swelling. Borage seed oil, however, has the highest GLA count of any oil.

Some forms of GLA are broken down into arachidonic acid (AA, which itself can be consumed directly through meat) and the eicosanoids that form have the potential to cause inflammation, thrombosis, allergic reactions, increased blood pressure and cell proliferation. However, when GLA is taken as a supplement, it is converted into dihomogamma-linolenic acid, or DGLA, which counteracts the effects that AA has on the body. Through supplement form, GLA also converts into prostaglandin E1 (PGE1) which may help to thin the blood and ease pain and swelling. When GLA supplements are taken in conjunction with a healthy, nutrient-rich diet, the chances of AA being produced are very low, and the anti-inflammatory properties of GLA and DGLA are apparent.

Most people eat diets rich in omega-6 fatty acids, as they are prevalent in normal vegetable cooking oils such as canola, cottonseed, peanut and safflower; however, the GLA derived from borage seed oil, in the form of an essential fatty acid supplement, is much more beneficial. Although it is still being studied, borage seed oil has been shown to not only help inflamatory conditions, but also help ward off high cholesterol, skin irritations, menstrual pain and fatigue, while some evidence suggests that the GLA found in borage seed oil may be instrumental in preventing cancer.

Borage seed oil is available in both liquid and gel capsule formulas. The recommended dosage of GLA for arthritis pain is around 1,800 mg per day. Effects on arthritis and other inflammatory conditions may take 1-3 months to become apparent. In one six-month placebo-controlled study, patients given GLA through borage seed oil supplements showed improvement in grip strength, joint stiffness and inflammatory pain. For optimal absorption, always remember to include omega-6 essential fatty acids as part of a healthy diet rich in fruits, vegetables, heart-healthy lean proteins and whole grains.
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