Fat You Can Love

| April 15, 2013 | 0 Comments

by Chris­tine Horner , MD

There are cer­tain fats that are bad for us and pro­mote dis­ease, and oth­ers that are very good for us because they help to pro­tect ward off dis­ease and keep us healthy. Previously I wrote about the health ben­e­fits of omega-3 fatty acids found in flaxseeds and cer­tain fish like wild caught salmon, and omega-9 fatty acids found in olive oil.

There’s a spe­cial type of omega-6 fatty acid called gamma-linolenic acid (GLA)—found in high amounts in evening prim­rose oil, bor­age oil and black cur­rent seed oil—that also has many health promoting properties.

The health ben­e­fits range from low­er­ing your risk of breast can­cer, to help­ing reduce hot flashes and symp­toms of PMS, to improv­ing arthri­tis, and inflam­ma­tory skin con­di­tions includ­ing eczema and pso­ri­a­sis. It may even help you to lose weight.

Although our bod­ies can man­u­fac­ture it, we often don’t make enough for a vari­ety of rea­sons. Also for cer­tain dis­ease conditions, taking extra amounts of GLA seems to sig­nif­i­cantly help.

Breast Can­cer

Evening Prim­rose oil and GLA in gen­eral, appears to mount a pow­er­ful defense against breast can­cer. In lab­o­ra­tory tests con­ducted at North­west­ern Uni­ver­sity and pub­lished in the Jour­nal of the National Can­cer Insti­tute in Novem­ber, 2005, GLA was found to inhibit the Her-2/neu gene and increase the tumor-cell killing abil­ity of the anti­cancer drug Her­ceptin by 30 to 40 times!

In another study pub­lished in the Inter­na­tional Jour­nal of Oncol­ogy in 2004, GLA was found to inhibit the expres­sion of a crit­i­cal enzyme involved in the syn­the­sis of fatty acids in mam­mals called fatty acid syn­thase (FAS). This enzyme is impor­tant for breast can­cer because it is found to be overexpressed, meaning is pro­duced in exces­sive quan­ti­ties, in Her-2/neu breast cancers. GLA was found to decrease the activ­ity of FAS by 75% and was the most effec­tive of all the oils tested. When FAS lev­els are low, it causes an accu­mu­la­tion of tox­ins in the can­cer cells and causes them to die.

If you are cur­rently being treated with chemother­apy for breast can­cer, you’ll be inter­ested in know­ing that ear­lier research at North­west­ern Uni­ver­sity demon­strated that GLA also enhances the effec­tive­ness of sev­eral other chemother­apy drugs used for breast can­cer, includ­ing Taxol, Taxotere, Navelbine, Tamox­ifen and Faslodex. In addition, GLA con­tains superb anti-inflammatory and antiox­i­dant prop­er­ties which help to impede the growth of cancers.

GLA can also pro­tect against some of the dam­ag­ing side effects of chemotherapy, especially nerve dam­age called neu­ropa­thy that man­i­fests as numb­ness and tin­gling. A study pub­lished in the Jour­nal of Nutri­tionin Novem­ber 2003 reported that evening prim­rose oil may help pro­tect against and improve this type of nerve damage.


Patients with dia­betes fre­quent suf­fer from another type of nerve dam­age called periph­eral neu­ropa­thy. Like the nerve dam­age caused by chemother­apy, patients with dia­betic neu­ropa­thy suf­fer with numb­ness and tin­gling of their extrem­i­ties. This lack of sen­sa­tion may lead to unrec­og­nized injuries of the feet and sub­se­quent infec­tions. Sev­eral stud­ies, includ­ing one that was pub­lished in 2003 in the Jour­nal Amer­i­can Board of Fam­ily Prac­tice, show that evening prim­rose oil sig­nif­i­cantly improves this condition.

Inflam­ma­tory Skin Con­di­tions and Autoim­mune Diseases

In a meta-analysis (a review of many stud­ies) of ran­dom­ized placebo-controlled clin­i­cal tri­als of evening prim­rose oil for atopic eczema, there were clear improve­ments in itch­ing, crust­ing, edema, and redness. Other stud­ies show evening prim­rose oil improves a vari­ety of other skin con­di­tions and autoim­mune dis­ease includ­ing pso­ri­a­sis, sys­temic lupus ery­the­mato­sus, and mul­ti­ple sclerosis.

Hor­monal Balance

Evening Prim­rose oil has been shown to help alle­vi­ate hot flashes asso­ci­ated with menopause and has mod­est ben­e­fits for PMS as well. For women who suf­fer with painful breasts, espe­cially around their men­strual periods—a con­di­tion called cyclic mastalgia–evening prim­rose oil may be extremely help­ful. In a study pub­lished in the British Med­ical Bul­letin 1991 and another in the pres­ti­gious jour­nal the Lancet, evening prim­rose oil improved the symp­toms in 77% of patients with cyclic mastalgia.


Because evening prim­rose oil has excel­lent anti-inflammatory and antiox­i­dant qual­i­ties, it should not be sur­pris­ing that stud­ies show it helps relieve the sever­ity of the com­mon inflam­ma­tory con­di­tions ofos­teoarthri­tis and rheuma­toid arthritis

Weight Con­trol

Finally, GLA may be ben­e­fi­cial for those who are over­weight, because accord­ing to a study pub­lished in CCL Fam­ily Foun­da­tion­sin 1993, it assists the body in using fat better.

Gamma linolenic acid is def­i­nitely a fat you can love!

Category: Nourish

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