PDR Health

Gamma-Linolenic Acid

What is Gamma-Linolenic Acid?

Gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) is a polyunsaturated fatty acid that is found in various plant oils. It is also known as 18:3(n-6), or 18:3 omega-6. GLA is considered to be an essential fatty acid because the body cannot produce it on its own. The body must obtain GLA from the diet in order to maintain proper health.

Gamma-Linolenic Acid

Health Benefits of Gamma-Linolenic Acid

There are a number of potential health benefits associated with gamma-linolenic acid supplementation. These include:

1. Reducing inflammation: GLA has anti-inflammatory effects and may be helpful in reducing the symptoms of conditions like arthritis.

2. Improving skin health: GLA is often used topically to improve the appearance of the skin and treat conditions like eczema.

3. Reducing risk of heart disease: Some studies have shown that GLA supplementation can reduce the risk of heart disease by lowering cholesterol and blood pressure levels.

4. Boosting cognitive function: GLA has been shown to improve cognitive function in animals, and it may also have beneficial effects in humans.

5. Enhancing weight loss: One study showed that GLA supplementation increased weight loss in people who were following a calorie-restricted diet.

Side Effects of Gamma-Linolenic Acid

Gamma-linolenic acid is generally considered safe when taken in the recommended dosage. However, some people may experience side effects such as stomach upset, diarrhea, or headache. If you experience any negative side effects, stop taking GLA and consult your doctor.

Pregnant women and those who are breastfeeding should avoid GLA supplementation unless directed by a healthcare professional. GLA may also interact with certain medications, so it is important to speak to your doctor before starting supplementation.

Dosage and Supplementation

The recommended dosage of gamma-linolenic acid varies depending on the individual and the condition being treated. Speak to your doctor before starting GLA supplementation to determine the best dosage for you.

GLA is found in various plant oils, such as evening primrose oil, borage oil, and black currant seed oil. It is also available in supplement form. Supplements are typically sold in capsules or softgels that contain 500-1000 mg of GLA.

Mechanism of Action

Gamma-linolenic acid is thought to exert its health benefits by reducing inflammation and promoting cell growth. It is also a precursor to other compounds that are important for human health, such as prostaglandins and leukotrienes.


Gamma-linolenic acid may interact with certain medications, such as blood thinners, diabetes medications, and NSAIDs. If you are taking any medication, speak to your doctor before starting GLA supplementation.


Gamma-linolenic acid is rapidly absorbed from the gut and metabolized by the liver. The half-life of GLA is thought to be around 3 hours.


Human research on the health effects of gamma-linolenic acid is limited. More studies are needed to better understand the potential health benefits and risks of GLA supplementation.

Alternatives to Gamma-Linolenic Acid

There are a number of alternative supplements that may offer similar benefits to gamma-linolenic acid. These include omega-3 fatty acids, such as eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). Omega-3 supplements are generally considered safe and effective for reducing inflammation and promoting heart health.

Another alternative is boraage oil, which is a natural source of GLA. Borage oil has been shown to be effective in treating eczema and other skin conditions. It is also thought to have anti-inflammatory effects.

Is docosahexaenoic acid more effective than gamma-linolenic acid in reducing the risk of heart disease?

There is some evidence that docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) may be more effective than gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) in reducing the risk of heart disease. One study found that DHA supplementation reduced LDL cholesterol and triglyceride levels more effectively than GLA supplementation. However, more research is needed to confirm these findings.