What is borage oil?
Borage oil is probably better known as starflower oil, this being the plant from whose seed the oil is extracted – but researchers have been more interested in the oil’s active component than the oil itself. Whatever you like to call it, the oil’s medicinal properties have made it the centre of attention for both alternative and mainstream medicine.
The ‘magic’ active ingredient of borage oil, which brings its possible health benefits, is GLA – gamma linoleic acid. This is a long chain polyunsaturated fatty acid, one found in very few plants. Along with borage it’s found in hemp, blackcurrant and evening primrose, but borage has it in an especially great concentration. Borage oil supplements usually contain 24% GLA, and the amount of GLA in the oil itself is between 20% and 27%.
It’s good to take GLA supplements to help the body attain and maintain a healthy balance. The body has the ability to obtain GLA from linoleic acids, found in omega 6 oils which include safflower, sunflower and corn oils. However, over-consumption of these oils, as is typical today, can inhibit the body’s uptake of GLA as it becomes more difficult to convert linoleic acid to GLA.
Modern food production can produce food that the body finds hard to digest and utilise. For example, the likes of margarine can only be made through hydrogenation, a process which involves subjecting oils to very high temperatures and changing the chemical structure of fatty acid molecules. This can alter the configuration of the molecules from ‘cis’ which is healthy, to ‘trans’ which carry their own risks if over-consumed. Too much in the way of trans fats in a diet can block the enzymatic conversion of linoleic acid to GLA, which can only be bad for the body. It means you lose out on many important vitamins and minerals including vitamins A and C, potassium and zinc.
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