Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Wisdom Wednesday: Black Current Seed Oil

Black current seed oil is an omega 6 fatty acid. Just like the omega 3 fatty acids, omega 6s are essential. Humans can not create the double bond at the 3rd carbon or the 6th carbon from the terminal end of the fatty acid. So both must be in the diet.

Unlike omega 3 fatty acids, there are plenty of sources of omega 6 fatty acids in our diet. Olive, corn, soy, sunflower, and safflower oils are all rich in omega 6s. Unfortunately, most of these oils also contain saturated fats that are not so healthy.

In addition, many of us can not convert the linoleic acid (omega 6) into gamma linolenic acid (GLA) to be used by the body. Alcohol, saturated fats, trans-fats, deficiencies of vitamin B3, B6 or zinc, some chemicals and some viral infections can block the chemical pathway for conversion. As we age, as stress increases, or when any of the factors of metabolic syndrome appear, this process becomes less efficient. GLA can also be diverted into the arachidonic acid pathway by these same factors, increasing inflammation body wide. (Please review my blog on Sesame Seed Oil)

The abundance in the diet, poor conversion to GLA, and tendency to be pro-inflammatory in nature has led most nutritionist to recommend against supplementation of omega 6 fatty acids. However, I disagree with their reasoning and often recommend black current seed oil. I believe you need to correct the metabolic errors rather than deny an essential nutrient to the body.

Black current seed oil contains a high level of GLA so conversion from linoleic acid is not an issue. Blocking the unwanted conversion to arachidonic acid is easily accomplished with sesame seed oil. Frequently, I will start with sesame seed oil, then add black current seed oil as the patient’s metabolism improves, finally discontinuing both as their diet improves.

Evening primrose oil and borage oil are also good sources of GLA. In fact borage oil actually contains more GLA than the black current seed. However, both evening primrose and borage contain a higher percentage of unwanted oils that are pro-inflammatory.

Many of you are aware of the use of evening primrose oil for perimenopause or PMS symptoms. It is the GLA in the oil that is used by the body to manufacture sex hormones that makes it effective. Black current seed oil is generally more effective than evening primrose but is not as well known.

A typical candidate for black current seed oil in my office is a middle aged female with chronic low back pain. She is also suffering from hot flashes, mood swings, and weight gain associated with perimenopause. All of her symptoms are related to the lack of prostaglandin ones – PG1, the healthy end product from omega 6 fatty acid metabolism. Supplementation of black current seed oil will reduce the inflammation in the low back and support hormone production for her hormonal imbalance. However, a younger woman without hormonal issues or a male patient with chronic low back pain might fair much better using fish oil, increasing the anti-inflammatory effects of PG3 production. The diabetic patient will need to restrict omega 6 fatty acids in the diet, supplementing sesame seed oil to block conversion of GLA to pro-inflammatory PG2 (arachidonic acid).

This is a simplified example of blending history with examination and following the chemistry of the body to arrive at an effective protocol in the treatment of inflammation.

If you suffer from inflammation and hormonal imbalance or are insulin resistant, consider having a qualified nutritionist evaluate your omega 6 fatty acid pathways. The benefits of correcting this chemistry are often far reaching.