Short-term supplementation of low-dose gamma-linolenic acid (GLA), alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), or GLA plus ALA does not augment LCP omega 3 status of Dutch vegans to an appreciable extent

Prostaglandins Leukot Essent Fatty Acids. 2000 Nov;63(5):287-92. doi: 10.1054/plef.2000.0216.


Vegans do not consume meat and fish and have therefore low intakes of long chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (LCP). They may consequently have little negative feedback inhibition from dietary LCP on conversion of alpha -linolenic acid (ALA) to the LCP omega 3 eicosapentaenoic (EPA) and docosahexaenoic (DHA) acids. We investigated whether supplementation of nine apparently healthy vegans with 2.01 g ALA (4 ml linseed oil), 1.17 g gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) (6 ml borage oil) or their combination increases the LCP omega 3 contents of erythrocytes (RBC) and platelets (PLT), and of plasma phospholipids (PL), cholesterol esters (CE) and triglycerides (TG). The supplements changed the dietary LA/ALA ratio (in g/g) from about 13.7 (baseline) to 6.8 (linseed oil), 14.3 (borage oil) and 6.4 (linseed + borage oil), respectively. ALA or GLA given as single supplements did not increase LCP omega 3 status, but their combination augmented LCP omega 3 (in CE) and EPA (in fasting TG) to a statistically significant, but nevertheless negligible, extent. We conclude that negative feedback inhibition by dietary LCP, if any, does not play an important role in the inability to augment notably DHA status by dietary ALA. The reach of a DHA plateau already at low dietary ALA intakes suggests that dietary DHA causes a non-functional DHA surplus, or is, alternatively, important for maintaining DHA status at a functionally relevant level.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Blood Platelets / drug effects
  • Blood Platelets / metabolism
  • Cholesterol Esters / blood
  • Diet, Vegetarian*
  • Dietary Supplements*
  • Docosahexaenoic Acids / blood
  • Eicosapentaenoic Acid / blood
  • Erythrocytes / drug effects
  • Erythrocytes / metabolism
  • Fatty Acids, Unsaturated / blood*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Netherlands
  • Phospholipids / blood
  • Triglycerides / blood
  • alpha-Linolenic Acid / metabolism*
  • gamma-Linolenic Acid / metabolism*


  • Cholesterol Esters
  • Fatty Acids, Unsaturated
  • Phospholipids
  • Triglycerides
  • alpha-Linolenic Acid
  • Docosahexaenoic Acids
  • gamma-Linolenic Acid
  • Eicosapentaenoic Acid