Why Some Women Suffer Breast Cancer Relapses

NEW YORK –  Scientists at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Centre in New York City have found out why some women suffer relapses years after beating breast cancer.

Leading oncologist Dr. Larry Norton has revealed that breast cancer cells have the unique ability to lie dormant for years, even after the original tumor has been removed.

In a novel study, the researchers have found a genetic switch, called Src, that triggers dormant breast cancer cells.

“Wandering cells might relocate to the primary site just as they could – by using the same biological toolbox – locate to a distant site,” the Daily Express quoted Norton as saying.

“It’s just as a weed-bed overgrows and destroys a garden and then scatters its tiny seeds to invade neighboring gardens.

“Our results should encourage cancer specialists to think about further study of Src inhibitor drugs that attack reservoirs of these ‘wandering’ latent cancer cells and prevent spread of the disease in breast cancer patients after the tumour has been removed,” he added.

Dr. Helen George, Cancer Research UK’s head of science information, said: “This research is important because it offers an explanation of why some breast cancers can spread and return.

NOTE: CANCER CANNOT SURVIVE IN AN OXYGENATED AND ALKALINE ENVIRONMENT.   SEE POSTS FOR BI-CARBONATE AND L-ARGININE AND THE BUDWIG PROTOCOL

New Radioactive Imaging Agent may Revolutionize Skin Cancer Diagnosis

SYDNEY – An Australian Government funded research group has developed a potential new material that can make early diagnosis of malignant melanoma, the most serious form of skin cancer possible.

Writing about their work in the ACS’ Journal of the Medicinal Chemistry, the Cooperative Research Consortium for Biomedical Imaging Develop has revealed that the novel material is currently being tested in laboratory animals.

Ivan Greguric, a group member, notes that about 130,000 new cases of malignant melanoma occur each year worldwide.

Although patients do best with early diagnosis and prompt treatment, according to the researcher, the positron emission tomography (PET) scans sometimes used for diagnosis sometimes miss small cancers, delaying diagnosis and treatment.

While searching for better ways of diagnosis, the researchers identified a new group of radioactive imaging agents, known as fluoronicotinamides.

Testing it on laboratory mice that had melanoma, the researchers observed that the novel substance revealed skin cancer cells with greater accuracy than imaging agents currently in use.

Consequently, note the researchers, this substance may become a “superior” PET imaging agent for improving the diagnosis and monitoring the effectiveness of treatment of melanoma.

They have revealed that clinical trials with this new agent are scheduled for 2010.

Regular Exercise Cuts Prostate Cancer Risk

CHARLOTTE  – A new study has revealed that regular exercise can help keep prostate cancer at bay.

According to researchers at Duke University Medical Centre, those who were moderately active – anything equivalent to walking at a moderate pace for several hours a week – were significantly less likely to be diagnosed with prostate cancer.

They analysed 190 men who had a prostate biopsy and found that 58 percent of the men exercised less than the equivalent of one hour per week of easy walking, reports chinaview.cn

The study also showed that exercise was associated with less aggressive disease in men who did develop prostate cancer.

“As the amount of exercise increased, the risk of cancer decreased,” said lead author Dr. Jodi Antonelli, a urology researcher at the centre.

Natural Compounds in Vegetables Make Chemotherapy More Effective

PORTLAND- Natural compounds present in plants and some vegetables may help treat cancer even more effectively, when used side-by-side with chemotherapy drugs, according to new research.

A study published in the International Journal of Cancer has found that chlorophyllin-a water-soluble derivative of chlorophyll that makes possible the process of photosynthesis and plant growth from the sun’s energy-is, on a dose-by-dose basis, 10 times more potent at causing death of colon cancer cells than the chemotherapeutic drug hydroxyurea.

Experts in the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University say that the study has also shown that chlorophyllin kills cancer cells by blocking the same phase of cellular division that hydroxyurea does, but by a different mechanism.

Based on that finding, the researchers suggest that it may be possible to developed to have a synergistic effect with conventional cancer drugs, helping them to work better or require less toxic dosages.

“We conclude that chlorophyllin has the potential to be effective in the clinical setting, when used alone or in combination with currently available cancer therapeutic agents,” the researchers wrote in their study report.

They, however, stressed the need for both in laboratory and animal studies, with combinations of chlorophyllin and existing cancer drugs, before it would be appropriate for human trials.

Other studies published in the journals Carcinogenesis and Cancer Prevention Research have explored the role of organic selenium compounds in killing human prostate and colon cancer cells.

During the studies, a form of organic selenium found naturally in garlic and Brazil nuts was converted in cancer cells to metabolites that acted as “HDAC inhibitors” – a promising field of research in which silenced tumor suppressor genes are re-activated, triggering cancer cell death.

Rod Dashwood, professor and director of the Cancer Chemoprotection Program in the Linus Pauling Institute, says that the concept of combining conventional or new cancer drugs with natural compounds, which have been shown to have anti-cancer properties, is very promising.

“Most chemotherapeutic approaches to cancer try to target cancer cells specifically and do something that slows or stops their cell growth process. We’re now identifying such mechanisms of action for natural compounds, including dietary agents. With further research we may be able to make the two approaches work together to enhance the effectiveness of cancer therapies,” Dashwood said.

Right Dose of Omega-3 Fatty Acid May Be Identified

PARIS – A team of French scientists has possibly identified just the right dose of DHA acid that prevents heart disease in healthy men.

This study is the first to identify how much DHA or docosahexaenoic acid (omega-3 fatty acid) is necessary to promote optimal heart health.

Scientists show that a 200 mg daily dose of DHA is enough to affect biochemical markers that reliably predict cardiovascular problems, such as those related to aging, atherosclerosis, and diabetes.

“This study shows that regularly consuming small amounts of DHA is likely to improve the health status of people, especially in regards to cardiovascular function,” said Michel Lagarde, co-author of the study.

Lagarde and colleagues examined the effects of increasing doses of DHA on 12 healthy male volunteers aged between 53 and 65.

These men consumed doses of DHA at 200, 400, 800, and 1600 mg per day for two weeks for each dose amount, with DHA being the only omega-3 fatty acid in their diet.

Blood and urine samples were collected before and after each dose and at eight weeks after DHA supplementation stopped.

Researchers then examined these samples for biochemical markers indicating the effects of each dose on the volunteers.

“Now that we have a very good idea about how much DHA is just right, the next step is to try it out in an expanded clinical trial that involves many more people,” said Gerald Weissmann, editor-in-chief of The FASEB Journal, which is slated to publish the report.

“Until then, I’ll stick with tasty foods that contain DHA, like fish, rather than getting a quick fatty-acid fix at the local vitamin store,” Weissmann said.  

Introducing – Milk Thistle

Milk thistle is a flowering herb that is native to the Mediterranean region. It has been used for thousands of years as a remedy for a variety of ailments, especially liver problems.

Common Names—milk thistle, Mary thistle, holy thistle. Milk thistle is sometimes called silymarin, which is actually a mixture of the herb’s active components, including silybinin (also called silibinin or silybin).

Latin NameSilybum marianum

What It Is Used For

Milk thistle is believed to have protective effects on the liver and improve its function. It is typically used to treat liver cirrhosis, chronic hepatitis (liver inflammation), and gallbladder disorders. Treatment claims also include:

  • Lowering cholesterol levels
  • Reducing insulin resistance in people with type 2 diabetes who also have cirrhosis
  • Reducing the growth of cancer cells in breast, cervical, and prostate cancers

How It Is Used

Silymarin, which can be extracted from the seeds (fruit) of the milk thistle plant, is believed to be the biologically active part of the herb. The seeds are used to prepare capsules, extracts, and infusions (strong teas).

What the Science Says

There have been some studies of milk thistle on liver disease in humans, but these have been small. Some promising data have been reported, but study results at this time are mixed.

  • Although some studies conducted outside the United States support claims of oral milk thistle to improve liver function, there have been flaws in study design and reporting. To date, there is no conclusive evidence to prove its claimed uses.
  • Recent NCCAM-funded research includes a phase II study to better understand the use of milk thistle for chronic hepatitis C. Additional research, cofunded by NCCAM and the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, includes studies of milk thistle for chronic hepatitis C and nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (liver disease that occurs in people who drink little or no alcohol).
  • The National Cancer Institute and the National Institute of Nursing Research are also studying milk thistle, for cancer prevention and to treat complications in HIV patients.

Side Effects and Cautions

  • In clinical trials, milk thistle generally has few side effects. Occasionally, people report a laxative effect, upset stomach, diarrhea, and bloating.
  • Milk thistle can produce allergic reactions, which tend to be more common among people who are allergic to plants in the same family (for example, ragweed, chrysanthemum, marigold, and daisy).
  • Tell your health care providers about any complementary and alternative practices you use. Give them a full picture of what you do to manage your health. This will help ensure coordinated and safe care.

Chlorophyll Compounds may Help Treat Cancer

PORTLAND – Natural food compounds, previously studied for their ability to prevent cancer, may play a more potent role in treating it, says a new study.

Conducted by the Linus Pauling Institute, Oregon State University (OSU), the study found that chlorophyllin (water-soluble derivative of chlorophyll) was 10 times more effective in killing colon cancer cells than hydroxyurea, a drug commonly used in cancer treatment.

Moreover, chlorophyllin kills cancer cells by blocking the same phase of cellular division that hydroxyurea does, but by a different mechanism, according to an OSU release.

This opens the possiblity of developing other cocktails of natural products, to produce a synergistic effect with conventional cancer drugs, helping them to work better or require less toxic dosages, researchers said.

The concept of combining conventional cancer drugs with natural compounds that have been shown to have anti-cancer properties is very promising, said Rod Dashwood, professor and director of the Cancer Chemoprotection Program at the institute.

Most chemotherapeutic approaches to cancer try to target cancer cells specifically and do something that slows or stops their cell growth process, Dashwood said.

We conclude that chlorophyllin has the potential to be effective in the clinical setting, when used alone or in combination with currently available cancer therapeutic agents, the researchers wrote.

Chlorophyllin is a water-soluble derivative of chlorophyll — the green pigment found in most plants and many food products that makes possible the process of photosynthesis and plant growth from the sun’s energy.

The study was published in the International Journal of Cancer.

 

How to Eliminate and Prevent Cancer

This was originally published by Johns Hopkins Hospital.

 

After years of telling people chemotherapy is the only way to “try” to eliminate Cancer, Johns Hopkins is finally starting to tell you there is an alternative way.

1. Every person has cancer cells in the body. These cancer cells do not show up in the standard tests until they have multiplied to a few billion. When doctors tell cancer patients that there are no more cancer cells in their bodies after treatment, it just means the tests are unable to detect the  cancer cells because they have not reached the detectable size.

2. Cancer cells occur between 6 to more than 10 times in a  person’s lifetime.

3. When the person’s immune system is strong the cancer cells will be destroyed and prevented from multiplying and forming tumors.

4. When a person has cancer it indicates the person has  nutritional deficiencies. These could be due to genetic,  to environmental, food and lifestyle factors.

5. To overcome the multiple nutritional deficiencies, changing  diet and including supplements will strengthen the immune system.

6. Chemotherapy involves poisoning the rapidly-growing cancer cells and also destroys rapidly-growing healthy cells in the bone marrow, gastrointestinal tract etc, and can cause organ damage, like liver, kidneys, heart, lungs etc.

7. Radiation while destroying cancer cells also burns, scars and damages healthy cells, tissues and organs.

8. Initial treatment with chemotherapy and radiation will often reduce tumor size. However prolonged use of  chemotherapy and radiation do not result in more tumor destruction.

9. When the body has too much toxic burden from chemotherapy and radiation the immune system is either compromised or destroyed, hence the person can succumb to various kinds of infections and complications.

10. Chemotherapy and radiation can cause cancer cells to mutate and become resistant and difficult to destroy.  Surgery can also cause cancer cells to spread to other

 11. An effective way to battle cancer is to starve the cancer cells by not feeding it with the foods it needs to multiply.

CANCER CELLS FEED ON:

a. Sugar is a cancer-feeder. By cutting off sugar it cuts off  one important food supply to the cancer cells. Sugar substitutes like NutraSweet, Equal, Spoonful, etc are made  with Aspartame and it is harmful. A better natural substitute  would be Manuka honey or molasses, but only in very small amounts. Table salt has a chemical added to make it white in color Better alternative is Bragg‘s aminos or sea salt.

b. Milk causes the body to produce mucus, especially in the  gastro-intestinal tract… Cancer feeds on mucus. By cutting off milk and substituting with unsweetened soy milk cancer  cells are being starved.

c. Cancer cells thrive in an acid environment. A meat-based  diet is acidic and it is best to eat fish, and a little chicken rather than beef or pork. Meat also contains livestock antibiotics, growth hormones and parasites, which are all harmful, especially to people with cancer..

d. A diet made of 80% fresh vegetables and juice, whole grains, seeds, nuts and a little fruits help put the body into  an alkaline environment. About 20% can be from cooked food including beans. Fresh vegetable juices provide live enzymes that are easily  absorbed and reach down to cellular levels within 15 minutes to nourish and enhance growth of healthy cells. To obtain live enzymes for building healthy cells try and drink fresh vegetable juice (most vegetables including be an sprouts) and eat some raw vegetables 2 or 3 times a day.  Enzymes are destroyed at temperatures of 104 degrees F (40 degrees C).

e. Avoid coffee, tea, and chocolate, which have high  caffeine Green tea is a better alternative e and has cancer  fighting properties. Water-best to drink purified water, or filtered, to avoid known toxins and heavy metals in tap water. Distilled water is acidic, avoid it.

12. Meat protein is difficult to digest and requires a lot of digestive enzymes. undigested meat remaining in the  intestines becomes putrefied and leads to more toxic  buildup.

13. Cancer cell walls have a tough protein covering.  By  refraining from or eating less meat it frees more enzymes to attack the protein walls of cancer cells and allows the      body’s killer cells to destroy the cancer cells.

14. Some supplements build up the immune system (IP6, Flor-ssence, Essiac, anti-oxidants, vitamins, minerals,  EFAs etc.) to enable the bodies own killer cells to destroy      cancer cells.. Other supplements like vitamin E are known to cause apoptosis, or programmed cell death, the body’s normal method of disposing of damaged, unwanted, or unneeded cells.

15. Cancer is a disease of the mind, body, and spirit.  A proactive and positive spirit will help the cancer warrior be a survivor. Anger, un-forgiveness and bitterness put the body into a stressful and acidic environment. Learn to have a loving and forgiving spirit. Learn to relax and enjoy life.

16. Cancer cells cannot thrive in an oxygenated environment. Exercising daily, and deep breathing help to get more oxygen down to the cellular level. Oxygen therapy is another means employed to destroy cancer cells.

 

 

Lupus News

There actually has been a flurry of news surrounding lupus lately.

If that’s surprising, it’s because it’s been half a century since a new treatment for lupus, an autoimmune disease that can affect various organs, has been developed and approved. Since then the disease, whose manifestations range from mild to deadly, has been managed with a mishmash of drugs, mostly steroids, nonsteroid anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and even antimalarials, all devised to treat other diseases. In this respect lupus has long been something of a backwater. The disease affects 1.5 million Americans, 90 percent of them women.

But with the successful Phase III clinical trials of a drug called Benlysta this summer, the lupus scene has shifted. Benlysta, developed by the Rockville-based Human Genome Sciences and GlaxoSmithKline, showed promising results in keeping lupus disease activity at bay; it also appears to be safe. Further clinical trials are underway, with results expected in November. After that, the firms will seek FDA approval for the drug.

As with many autoimmune diseases, lupus is characterized by a baffling set of symptoms, some vague and others pronounced, ranging from fatigue and joint stiffness and pain to depression and a butterfly-shaped facial rash that covers the cheeks and bridge of the nose. More serious is the damage the disease can do to internal organs, particularly the kidneys, lungs and heart.

Just as multiple sclerosis, another autoimmune disease affecting some 400,000 Americans, was viewed largely as a hopeless disease until 1993 WHEN the FDA approved Betaseron, the first drug to treat underlying MS and not just its symptoms, lupus is quickly becoming viewed as a treatable disease, not just a manageable one. (There are now six FDA-approved drugs to treat MS, and many more are in the research pipeline.)

About two dozen lupus therapies are currently under investigation, according to the Lupus Foundation of America. Momentum is clearly underway.

But there’s one hitch: the Lupus Foundation recently put the word out that drug researchers aren’t finding enough subjects to take part in clinical trials. The Foundation directs potential participants to its clinical trials Web site for information about getting involved — a major but often rewarding undertaking.

 

Adding Flaxseed to Juices, Salads, Jellies Fight Prostate Cancer

OMAHA – Adding flaxseeds to juices, salads or pancake batter can help ward off prostate cancer, say experts.

“It’s the omega 3 fatty acids and the lignan present in flaxseed that led us to look at flaxseed’s prostate cancer prevention properties,” said Dr Wendy Demark-Wahnefried, professor of behavioral science at M. D. Anderson and head researcher for a recent study on flaxseed’s potential role as a power food.

Studies have shown that cancer risks, including the risk for prostate cancer, may be reduced by 30 to 40 percent if people ate a more plant-based diet, which includes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts and seeds – including flaxseed.

Experts suggest that how incorporate flaxseed into everyday recipes can help prevent prostate cancer.

Adding ground flaxseed to cookies, muffins or cornbread recipes gives a mild and nutty flavor and tastes great in peanut butter cookies, or in almost any baked good.

Crackers or tortilla chips with flaxseed, baked in, also have a pleasant nutty taste.

Adding ground flaxseed to yogurt or cottage cheese can also be beneficial.

Sprinkle flaxseed over your salad, or mix it into salad dressing.

Sprinkle flaxseed over oatmeal, cold cereal or grits.

Mixing flaxseed into pancake or waffle batter also perks-up the maple syrup.

Stirring ground flaxseed into juice, water, sports drinks or smoothies or sprinkling it over soup could help fight the disease.

Adding flaxseed into low-fat mayonnaise before putting it on a sandwich would not only make for a delicious treat but also help you stay hale and hearty.

“Cancer cells migrate by attaching onto other cells. The omega 3 fatty acids found in flaxseed keep cells from binding together and attaching to blood vessels,” said Demark-Wahnefried.

“Lignan may reduce testosterone and other hormone levels. Lowering testosterone levels may reduce a man’s chances of getting prostate cancer,” the expert added.

Flaxseed is sometimes difficult to digest in its whole form, however, grinding flaxseed makes it more digestible and increases the amount of nutrients absorbed.

 

Introducing – Omega-6 Fatty Acids

Overview:

Omega-6 fatty acids are considered essential fatty acids (EFAs). They are essential to human health but cannot be made in the body. For this reason, they must be obtained from food. Omega-3 fatty acids are another important group of essential fatty acids. Together, omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids play a crucial role in brain function as well as normal growth and development. EFAs belong to the class of fatty acids called polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs). They are generally necessary for stimulating skin and hair growth, maintaining bone health, regulating metabolism, and maintaining reproductive capability.

Deficiencies in EFAs can lead to reduced growth, a scaly rash called dermatitis, infertility, and lack of ability to fight infection and heal wounds. Lack of omega-6 fatty acids, however, is extremely rare in diets of those living in certain Western countries, particularly the United States and Israel. In fact, North American and Israeli diets tend to have too much omega-6, particularly in relation to omega-3 fatty acids. This imbalance contributes to long-term diseases, such as heart disease, cancer, asthma, arthritis, and depression. A healthy diet should consist of roughly 2 – 4 times more omega-6 fatty acids than omega-3 fatty acids. The typical American diet tends to contain 14 – 25 times more omega-6 fatty acids than omega-3 fatty acids, and many researchers believe this imbalance is a significant factor in the rising rate of inflammatory disorders in the United States.

In contrast, a Mediterranean diet is made up of a healthier and more appropriate balance between omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. The Mediterranean diet includes a generous amount of whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables, fish, olive oil, and garlic; plus, there is little meat, which is high in omega-6 fatty acids.

There are several different types of omega-6 fatty acids. Most omega-6 fatty acids are consumed in the diet from vegetable oils as linoleic acid (LA). Be careful not to confuse this with alpha-linolenic acid [ALA] which is an omega-3 fatty acid. Linoleic acid is converted to gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) in the body and then further broken down to arachidonic acid (AA). AA can also be consumed directly from meat, and GLA can be ingested from several plant-based oils including evening primrose oil (EPO), borage oil, and black currant seed oil.

Eicosanoids formed from arachidonic acid (AA, the omega-6 family) have the potential to increase blood pressure, inflammation, platelet aggregation, thrombosis, vasospasm, allergic reactions, and cell proliferation (growth). Those formed from eicosapentanoic acid (EPA, the omega-3 family) have opposing affects. Omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids are not interchangeable, and humans must consume both.

In contrast, gamma-linolenic acid (GLA, the omega-6 family) may actually reduce inflammation. Much of the GLA taken as a supplement is not converted to AA, but rather to a substance called dihomogamma-linolenic acid (DGLA). DGLA competes with AA and prevents the negative inflammatory effects that AA would otherwise cause in the body. In addition, DGLA becomes part of a particular series of substances, called prostaglandins, that can reduce inflammation. Having adequate amounts of certain nutrients in the body (including magnesium, zinc, and vitamins C, B3, and B6) helps promote the conversion of GLA to DGLA rather than to AA that increase inflammation.

It may be more important to supplement the diet with omega-3 fatty acids to reduce inflammation and prevent heart disease than omega-6 fatty acids, as most individuals are not omega-6 deficient.

Uses:

Some clinicians and preliminary clinical research suggests that omega-6 fatty acids may be useful for the following health conditions:

Acne and psoriasis

Early clinical research has reported that dietary linoleic acid (LA, from corn oil and others) may prove beneficial for these skin conditions by replenishing the low levels of LA in these lesions. Further clinical research is needed in this area.

Alcoholism

EPO may help lessen cravings for alcohol and prevent liver damage. Most of this information comes from animal studies, and more research in humans is needed.

Allergies

People who are prone to allergies may require more essential fatty acids (EFAs) and often have difficulty converting LA to GLA. In fact, women and infants who are prone to allergies appear to have lower levels of GLA in breast milk and blood.

The use of EFAs to prevent allergic reactions or reduce their magnitude has had mixed results in clinical studies. There have been some reports of individuals lessening their allergic reaction by taking GLA from EPO. Well-conducted research studies are needed to determine whether EPO can be helpful for large numbers of people with allergies.

 A clinical study evaluating the dietary intake of omega-6 fatty acids relative to the risk of having hay fever (or allergic rhinitis) found an increase risk of developing symptoms associated with hay fever (including runny nose, and itchy, watery eyes) when using omega-6 fatty acids.

Omega-6 fatty acids from the diet or supplements, such as GLA from EPO or other sources, have a longstanding history of folk use for allergies. Whether this supplement improves symptoms of the conditions listed above may be very individual. Work with your health care provider to first determine if it is safe for you to try GLA and then follow your allergy symptoms closely for any signs of improvement or lack or improvement.

Anorexia nervosa

Clinical studies suggest that women, and possibly men, with anorexia nervosa have lower than optimal levels of polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs, including omega-6 fatty acids) and display abnormalities in the use of these fatty acids in the body. To prevent the metabolic complications associated with essential fatty acid deficiencies, some recommend that treatment programs for anorexia nervosa include PUFA-rich foods, such as organ meats and fish.

Attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)

Clinical studies suggest that children with ADHD have lower levels of EFAs, both omega-6s and omega-3s. EFAs are important to normal brain and behavioral function. Because of their effects on the brain and nervous system and the low levels of EFAs measured in those with ADHD, scientists have speculated that replacement of EFAs through food or supplements may help lessen the behaviors and symptoms of this condition.

Clinical research to date has suggested an improvement in symptoms and behaviors related to ADHD from omega-3 fatty acids. Results of clinical studies supplying omega-6 fatty acids in the form of gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) to children with ADHD, however, have been mixed and, therefore, not conclusive. More research on GLA for ADHD is needed before conclusions can be drawn. In the meantime, ensuring a healthier balance of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids in the diet seems worthwhile for those with this condition.

Cancer

Results of studies looking at the relationship of omega-6 fatty acids to cancer have been mixed. While LA and AA are cancer promoting in studies of colon, breast, and other cancers, GLA and EPO have shown some benefit for breast cancer in certain studies. The information is not conclusive and is somewhat controversial. It may be important to eat a diet with the proper balance of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids (see How To Take It), starting from a young age, to try to prevent the development of cancer.

Diabetes

Omega-6 fatty acid supplementation, in the form of GLA from evening primrose oil (EPO) or other sources, may assist nerve function and help prevent nerve disease experienced by those with diabetes (called peripheral neuropathy and felt as numbness, tingling, pain, burning, or lack of sensation in the feet or legs).

Eczema

Several clinical studies suggest that EPO is more beneficial than placebo at relieving symptoms associated with this skin condition such as itching, redness, and scaling. However, other clinical studies have not had the same positive results testing GLA derived from EPO. Talk to your health care provider about the possibility and safety of trying EPO for this eczema.

Eye disease

GLA may be beneficial in dry-eye conditions such as Sjögren’s syndrome (a condition with symptoms of dry eyes, dry mouth, and, often, arthritis).

Heart disease and high blood pressure

Animal studies suggest that GLA may lower the blood pressure of hypertensive rats — either alone or in combination with two important omega-3 fatty acids, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), both found in fish and fish oil. Together with EPA and DHA, the GLA helped to prevent the development of heart disease in these animals as well. It is unclear whether these benefits would occur in people.

Peripheral artery disease causes blockages in the blood vessels in the legs from atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries), causing cramping pain with walking. In one clinical study evaluating individuals with peripheral artery disease, men and women with this condition did experience improvement in their blood pressure from the combination of EPA and GLA. Much more research is needed in people before conclusions can be drawn.

 Menopausal symptoms

Although EPO has gained some popularity for treating hot flashes during menopause, the research to date has not demonstrated a benefit of GLA or EPO over taking a placebo. However, there are women who report improvement in symptoms while taking EPO. Talk to your health care professional about whether it is safe for you to try EPO or another form of GLA supplements to alleviate hot flashes.

Multiple Sclerosis

Evening primrose oil (EPO) has a long history of use in treating multiple sclerosis (MS) although some of the clinical research on its effectiveness has been conflicting. MS patients seeking to incorporate the use of EPO in their treatment regimens should consult with a health care provider.

Osteoporosis

A deficiency in essential fatty acids, including GLA and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA (an omega-3 fatty acid), can lead to severe bone loss and osteoporosis. Clinical studies have reported that supplements of GLA and EPA help maintain or increase bone mass. Essential fatty acids may also enhance calcium absorption, increase calcium deposits in bones, diminish calcium loss in urine, improve bone strength, and enhance bone growth, all of which may contribute to improved bone mass and, therefore, strength.

Premenstrual syndrome (PMS)

Although results of studies have been mixed, some women find relief of their PMS symptoms when using GLA supplements from EPO or another source. The symptoms that seem to be helped the most are breast tenderness and feelings of depression as well as irritability and swelling and bloating from fluid retention. Breast tenderness from causes other than PMS may also improve with use of GLA.

Rheumatoid arthritis

Some preliminary clinical studies suggest that GLA from EPO, borage oil, or black currant seed oil may diminish joint pain, swelling, and morning stiffness. GLA may also allow for reduction in amount of pain medication used by those with rheumatoid arthritis. The clinical studies to date, however, have been small in size. Additional research in this area is needed. When using GLA for symptoms of arthritis, it may take 1 – 3 months for benefits to appear.

Tuberculosis

Animal studies suggest that guinea pigs fed a diet rich in omega-6 fatty acids were better able to fight this infection than guinea pigs fed a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids. Whether this would help people with tuberculosis is not known.

Ulcers

Preliminary evidence from test tube and animal studies suggest that GLA from EPO may have anti-ulcer properties. It is premature to know how this might apply to people with stomach or intestinal ulcers or gastritis (inflammation of the stomach).

Weight loss

Results of clinical studies regarding use of EPO for weight loss have been mixed and, therefore, use of this type of supplement may not work for everyone. One clinical study suggests that if the supplement is going to work, it does so mainly for overweight individuals for whom obesity runs in the family. In addition, a few other small clinical studies suggest that the more overweight you are, the more likely that EPO will help. In fact, if your body weight is only 10% above normal (for example, 10 – 20 pounds above average), EPO is unlikely to help you lose weight.

Dietary Sources:

The American diet provides more than 10 times the needed amount of omega-6 oils in the form of linoleic acid (LA). This is because it comprises the primary oil ingredient added to most processed foods and is found in commonly used cooking oils, including sunflower, safflower, corn, cottonseed, and soybean oils.

Omega-6 fatty acids in the form of gamma linolenic acid (GLA) and LA are found in the plant seed oils of evening primrose, black currant, borage, and fungal oils.

Arachidonic acid (AA) of the omega-6 series is found in egg yolk, meats in general, particularly organ meats, and other animal-based foods.

Available Forms:

Omega-6 fatty acids are commercially available in supplemental oils that contain linoleic acid (LA) and gamma linolenic acid (GLA), such as evening primrose (Oenothera biennis) and black currant (Ribes nigrum ) oils. Spirulina (often called blue-green algae) also contains GLA.

How to Take It:

 

For general health, there should be a balance between omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids. The ratio should be in the range of 2:1 – 4:1, omega-6 to omega-3. The average diet provides sufficient omega-6 fatty acids, so supplementation is usually not necessary unless treating for a specific condition such as eczema or psoriasis, arthritis, diabetes, or breast tenderness (mastalgia).

Pediatric

For nursing infants: Adequate amounts of essential fatty acids are generally supplied in breast milk if the mother is adequately nourished.

For eczema in children 2 – 18 years of age: Evening primrose oil (EPO), 3 grams daily, divided into several smaller doses throughout the day. It is reported that the maximum dose should not be greater than 0.5 gram per kilogram of body weight daily. Consult a health care provider before using supplements in children.

Adult

For eczema or atopic dermatitis: Evening primrose oil (EPO), 4,000 – 8,000 mg daily, or gamma-linolenic acid (GLA), 2,800 mg daily, both divided into several smaller doses throughout the day.

For rheumatoid arthritis: Evening primrose oil (EPO), 3,000 mg daily, or gamma-linolenic acid (GLA), 1,400 mg daily, both divided into several smaller doses throughout the day.

For diabetes: Gamma-linolenic acid (GLA), 480 mg daily, divided into several smaller doses throughout the day.

For breast tenderness (mastalgia) or PMS: Evening primrose oil (EPO), 3,000 – 4,000 mg daily, divided into several smaller doses throughout the day.

Precautions:

Because of the potential for side effects and interactions with medications, dietary supplements should be taken only under the supervision of a knowledgeable health care provider.

Omega-6 should not be used if you have a seizure disorder because there have been reports of these supplements inducing seizures. Several reports describe seizures in individuals taking evening primrose oil (EPO). Some of these seizures developed in people with a previous seizure disorder, or in individuals taking EPO in combination with anesthetics. Based on these reports, people with seizure disorders should not take EPO. Patients who plan to undergo surgery requiring anesthesia should stop taking EPO 2 weeks ahead of time because of the possibility of seizure.

Borage seed oil, and possibly other sources of gamma-linolenic acid (GLA), should not be used during pregnancy because they may be harmful to the fetus and induce early labor.

Doses of GLA greater than 3,000 mg per day should be avoided because, at that point, production of arachidonic acid (AA) increases, which may cause and increase in inflammation.

Side effects of EPO can include occasional headache, abdominal pain, nausea, and loose stools. In animal studies, gamma-linolenic acid (an ingredient of evening primrose oil) is reported to decrease blood pressure. Early results in human studies do not show consistent changes in blood pressure.

Laboratory studies found that omega-6 fatty acids, such as the fat found in corn oil, promote the growth of prostate tumor cells. Until further research is performed in this area, health care professionals recommend not using omega-6 fatty acids, including GLA, if risk or symptoms of prostate cancer exist.

Possible Interactions:

If you are currently being treated with any of the following medications, you should not use omega-6 supplements without first talking to your health care provider.

Blood thinning medications — Individuals taking blood thinning medications, including warfarin (Coumadin) or clopidogrel (Plavix) should not take omega-6 fatty acid supplements without consulting a health care provider. Omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids may increase the risk of bleeding in sensitive individuals.

Ceftazidime — Gamma linolenic acid (GLA) may increase the effectiveness of ceftazidime (an antibiotic in a class known as cephalosporins), against a variety of bacterial infections.

Chemotherapy for cancer — GLA may increase the effects of anti-cancer treatments, such as doxorubicin, cisplatin, carboplatin, idarubicin, mitoxantrone, tamoxifen, vincristine, and vinblastine.

Cyclosporine — Taking omega-6 fatty acids during therapy with cyclosporine, a medication used to suppress the immune system after an organ transplant, for example, may increase the immunosuppressive effects of this medication and may protect against kidney damage (a potential side effect from this medication).

Phenothiazines — Individuals taking a class of medications called phenothiazines, including chlorpromazine (Thorazine), fluphenazine (Stelazine), perphenazine (Trilafon), promethazine (Compazine), and thioridazine (Mellaril) to treat schizophrenia should not take evening primrose oil (EPO) because it may interact with these medications and increase the risk of seizures. The same may be true for other omega-6 containing supplements.

Alternative Names:

Evening primrose oil; EPO; Linoleic acid; LA