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GLA Effective Treatment for Rheumatoid Arthritis

GLA Effective Treatment for Rheumatoid Arthritis

Article by Don Goldberg


GLA Effective Treatment for Rheumatoid Arthritis

Gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) is an essential fatty acid found in plant seed oils, such as evening primrose and borage seed oil. It is metabolized to the immediate precursor of prostaglandin E1 (PGE1), an eicosanoid with antiinflammatory and immoregulatory properties. GLA has been found to suppress acute and chronic inflammation, including arthritis in several animal models.

A recent study (Zurier, R.B, Gamma-Linolenic acid treatment of rheumatoid arthritis: A randomized, placebo controlled trial. Arthritis & Rheumatism, November 1996, Vol. 39, No. 11, pp.1808-1817) presented the results of a 1-year randomized, placebo-controlled trial in which a dose of 2.8 gm GLA per day was given to 56 patients between the ages of 18 and 90 with active rheumatoid arthritis. For six months the patients were randomized to treatment groups; for the following six months all patients were given GLA.

Treatment with GLA for the first six months resulted in a clinically relevant and statistically significant reduction in the signs and symptoms of disease in patients with rheumatoid arthritis. Measurements of improvement were based on a physician's overall assessment of the disease, the patient's pain assessment, the nujmber of joints with tenderness or pain, the number of swollen joints, duration of morning stiffness and grip strength. Patients given a placebo, however, did not show significant improvement. During the second six-month period, whell all subjects were given GLA, improvements were similar to or less than during the first six-months. The results indicated progressive improvement in patients given GLA for 12 months. Some of the patients were followed for an additional three months, during which time they received neither GLA nor placebo. Most patients who finished the entire 15 months of the study experienced exacerbation of joint pain and swelling between months 12 and 15.

The authors concluded that GLA at doses used in this study is a well-tolerated and effective treatment for active rheumatoid arthritis. But the authors cautioned that GLA is typically taken in doses much lower than what was used in the study.

How can this dose be achieved. A typical AEvening Primrose Oil@ product will provide, at best, 10% GLA. Thus, a large 1300 mg EPO capsule can provide 130 mg of GLA. To achieve the dose used in this study, 2.8 grams, one would have to take 21 capsules!

This, obviously, presents a problem to most people--it is difficult to take this many capsules. An alternative approach is to obtain GLA from an oil with a higher concentration, such as borage seed oil. Several companies offer a Borage Oil capsule that provides 300 mg of GLA. Using this type of product, one could reduce the number of capsules required from 21 to 9!

One can take this even further. The Omega-3 oils, from fish, which are rich in EPA and DHA serve as precursors to a different antiinflammatory prostaglandin, PGE3. A safe assumption is that these oils will exhibit similar benefit in treating rheumatoid arthritis. Their other benefits are well known.

One of the highest potency fish oil capsules available is TwinEPA, from Twinlabs. One capsule provides 600 mg of EPA and 240 mg of DHA. While it may be presumptious for us to assume that the potency of EPA to GLA is one to one, we can speculate that these fish oil products might be somewhat more concentrated.

Perhaps a compromise is in order. Many companies market blends of these oils. Health from the Sun, for example, has a product called The Total EFA. This product is a blend of Flax Oil, Borage Seed Oil and Fish Oi