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Resolving the Confusion about Omega-6 Fatty Acids
Borage Oil is the Answer!

By Keri Marshall, N.D.

Proper function of the body's natural anti-inflammatory response is crucial for staying healthy and enjoying relief from common inflammation related illnesses. Such disorders are both well known, such as osteoarthritis and joint pain, and sometimes surprising; Alzheimer's and heart disease, for example. Each condition has a strong inflammatory component. While conventional non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are currently used to treat most common inflammatory conditions, nutritional supplements can also stand in as effective adjunct therapies. One such supplement known for its support of the body's natural anti-inflammatory response—and its excellent tolerability—is borage oil.

Borage, also known as starflower, has the highest naturally-occurring essential fatty acid GLA of any known plant. GLA, a.k.a. gamma-linolenic acid, is an omega-6, one family of essential fatty acids that our bodies need but cannot make. The omega-6 family of fatty acids is best known for linoleic acid (LA) and GLA. Although they appear similar, these two omega-6s have very different functions. LA is found in common vegetable oils such as sunflower, safflower, corn, peanut, cottonseed, and soy, as well as in many processed foods that are constituted of these sources. Experts agree that an abundance of LA-rich foods in the typical Western diet has led to high levels of this omega-6 among Americans.

Because LA in excess tends to promote inflammation in the body, omega-6 sometimes gets a bad reputation, worsened by the fact that these fats are often hydrogenated and included in many processed foods. Still, omega-6 remains a family of essential fats which we need to consume—but must not over-consume—for health. In contrast to LA, GLA promotes the body's natural anti-inflammatory response, which supports healthy skin, mood, and joints, as well as brain and cardiovascular function. In this sense, GLA is similar in function to the other well-known family of essential fatty acids: omega-3. Specifically, omega-3 EPA and omega-6 GLA facilitate enzymatic processes responsible for the anti-inflammatory agents prostaglandin-3 and prostaglandin-1, in contrast to non-steroidal-anti-inflammatory-drugs (NSAIDs) that work by entirely blocking certain enzymes (COX-2) responsible for pro-inflammatory agents like prostaglandin-E2. As such, these essential fatty acids are natural compounds acquired through the diet, which can achieve similar effects to popular non-prescription pain medications.

Moreover, new research has shown that GLA from borage oil exhibits anti-inflammatory benefits that are on par with those from marine omega-3s from fish oil. One 2011 study conducted on people with rheumatoid arthritis found that both of these essential fatty acids reduced the production of inflammatory cytokines. They also displayed EFA-specific anti-inflammatory benefits, so that in combination they reduced the incidence of dyslipidemia in people with rheumatoid arthritis, a condition that is associated with greater risk for heart disease.

Tolerability is another special feature of botanical GLA oils like borage oil. While conventional anti-inflammatory therapies like NSAIDs are more likely to be viewed with caution by people with renal and digestive concerns, borage oil can be used without such hesitation. One study on the effects of borage oil used to treat atopic dermatitis, an inflammatory condition of the skin, found that it was well tolerated, and well received by patients who are often concerned with the effects of typical treatments for this affliction—corticosteroids. In these cases, GLA from borage oil may be a helpful adjunct, or even an alternative to conventional therapies.

For anyone who seeks natural anti-inflammatory support without taking fish oil, Nordic Naturals new botanical oil Nordic GLA™ is an excellent choice. Nordic GLA is a vegetarian borage oil made from non-GMO, cold-pressed borage seed from New Zealand. Available in four fluid ounces, the product provides 480 mg of GLA per serving, and supports healthy skin, hormonal balance, joint function, and optimal body-fat metabolism. It contains no gluten, milk derivatives or artificial colors, and is flavor-free. Nordic GLA is effective on its own, or can be combined with Nordic Naturals fish oil or algae oil omega-3 products for those who prefer a synergistic approach to essential fatty acid supplementation.

Maroon JC, Bost J, Fish Oil: The Natural Anti-Inflammatory. Basic Health Publications, Inc. Laguna Beach, CA. 2006
Foster RH, Hardy G, Alany RG, "Borage oil in the treatment of atopic dermatitis," Nutrition 2010;26:708–718.
Olendzki, BC, Leung K, Van Buskirk S, et al. Treatment of Rheumatoid
Arthritis with Marine and Botanical Oils: Influence on Serum Lipids, Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine; 2011

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