Supplements of omega-3 fish oils and GLA have the advantage of bypassing many of the biochemical bottlenecks that interfere with the body’s processing of PUFAs. Here’s a quick overview of recent research on them.
Omega-3 Fish Oils. Much of the anti-inflammatory effect of omega-3 fish oils derives from EPA, which counteracts arachidonic acid. Many studies have found that high intake of omega-3 fish oils reduces the risk of coronary heart disease. The omega-3s are mild blood thinners, slow the heart rate, improve heart rhythm, and increase blood-vessel flexibility. Some evidence suggests that omega-3 fats might even inhibit the growth of cancers.
Considerable research has also found that omega-3 fish oils, particularly DHA, benefit people with depression, postpartum depression, and bipolar disorder. Some studies have found that the omega-3s can reduce impulsive behavior, hostility, and physical aggressiveness. DHA in particular may improve memory and help cognitive function.
People who consume a lot of omega-3 fish oils have a lower risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. In a Swedish study, researchers gave omega-3 fish oil supplements to 174 men and women with Alzheimer’s disease. People with mild (but not severe) cognitive impairment improved during six months of supplementation.
In addition, the omega-3s might help with dry eye syndrome. A Harvard University study of more than 32,000 women found that women who consumed a lot of omega-3 fats had a relatively low risk for the condition. In contrast, women who consumed a lot of omega-6 fats but little omega-3 fats were more likely to suffer from dry eyes.
For most people, the beneficial amount of omega-3 fish oils ranges from 1,000 to 3,000 mg of combined EPA and DHA daily.
Gamma-Linolenic Acid. Several studies have found that GLA supplements can significantly lessen symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis. In fact, GLA may have benefits in a range of disorders by inhibiting several promoters of inflammation, including tumor necrosis factor and interleukin-1 beta.
Studies have also found GLA helpful in resolving eczema and psoriasis. The beneficial amount appears to be at least 275 mg taken twice daily. Combining GLA with vitamin D and omega-3 fish oils may enhance GLA’s benefits.
GLA may also help people maintain a healthful weight. In a study at the University of California, Davis, people who had recently lost weight and took GLA supplements were less likely to regain weight compared with people taking placebos.
GLA supplements are obtained from borage seed, black currant seed, and evening primrose seed oils. Ounce for ounce, borage seed oil contains the most GLA. However, it’s important to read supplement labels carefully—the key is the specific amount of GLA, not the total amount of borage, black currant, or evening primrose oil.
The beneficial amount of GLA ranges from about 200 mg to 1.4 g (1,400 mg) daily. Visit BetterNutrition for more.