Gamma-linolenic acid levels correlate with clinical efficacy of evening primrose oil in patients with atopic dermatitis

Adv Ther. 2014 Feb;31(2):180-8. doi: 10.1007/s12325-014-0093-0. Epub 2014 Jan 17.


Introduction: Atopic dermatitis (AD) has been related to a deficiency of delta-6-desaturase, an enzyme responsible for the conversion of linoleic acid to gamma-linolenic acid (GLA). Evening primrose oil (EPO) contains high amounts of GLA. Therefore, this study investigated whether EPO supplementation results in an increase in plasma GLA and its metabolite dihomo-gamma-linolenic acid (DGLA) correlating with clinical improvement of AD, assessed by the SCORing Atopic Dermatitis (SCORAD) index.

Methods: The open study included 21 patients with AD. EPO (4-6 g) was administered daily for 12 weeks. Before treatment, and 4 and 12 weeks after initiation of EPO supplementation, objective SCORAD was assessed and plasma concentrations of GLA and DGLA were determined by gas chromatography.

Results: A significant increase in plasma GLA and DGLA levels and a decrease in the objective SCORAD were observed 4 and 12 weeks after initiation of EPO treatment. In the per-protocol population (n = 14), a significant inverse correlation between the changes in plasma GLA levels and SCORAD was found (P = 0.008).

Conclusion: The clinical disease activity under EPO treatment correlates with the individual increase in plasma GLA levels. Thus, the results of this pilot study indicate that an increase in plasma GLA might be used as predictive parameter for responsiveness of AD to EPO therapy.

Trial registration: NCT00878670.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • 8,11,14-Eicosatrienoic Acid / blood*
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cohort Studies
  • Dermatitis, Atopic / blood
  • Dermatitis, Atopic / drug therapy*
  • Dermatologic Agents / chemistry
  • Dermatologic Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Linoleic Acids / chemistry
  • Linoleic Acids / therapeutic use*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Plant Oils / chemistry
  • Plant Oils / therapeutic use*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Young Adult
  • gamma-Linolenic Acid / analysis
  • gamma-Linolenic Acid / blood*
  • gamma-Linolenic Acid / chemistry
  • gamma-Linolenic Acid / therapeutic use


  • Dermatologic Agents
  • Linoleic Acids
  • Plant Oils
  • evening primrose oil
  • gamma-Linolenic Acid
  • 8,11,14-Eicosatrienoic Acid

Associated data