How GLA ignites your fat burning engines
Ann Louise Gittleman, PhD, CNS

Ann Louise Gittleman, PhD, CNS

Award-winning nutritionist and New York Times bestselling author.

September 19, 2013

The Hidden Weight Loss Trigger

GLA for weight lossHow GLA ignites your fat burning engines.

A flurry of new research regarding the role of fat in “fighting fat” came out in early 2009 in the New England Journal of Medicine. It was followed up by a media blitz earlier this year when Harvard researchers uncovered a newly-discovered exercise hormone that holds real promise in the way in which it allows the body to fight fat with fat.

This so-called new research was heralded as the latest obesity theory, although my first book Beyond Pritikin broke the real story back in 1988.

The mechanism behind this theory is known as brown fat and it explains how animals can hibernate throughout the winter without eating. They simply burn calories from this metabolically active fat to create heat. The heat, besides keeping animals warm, burns adipose tissue (or white fat) for energy that can act as a food source without real food.

Brown Fat: Your Personalized Fat Burner

Brown fat activity is one of the reasons that one individual can eat an enormous quantity of food throughout the day while another gains weight with just the mere thought of food!

I like to call brown fat your personalized fat burner.  Although it makes up only 10% or less of total body fat, it burns ¼ of all the calories burned by the other fat tissues combined.  Brown fat is brown because it contains numerous mitochondria which are little fat burning factories. The rest of the fat in the body is white because it contains few mitochondria.

White fat is the insulating layer on the outside of the body, just under the skin. Brown fat lies deeper, surrounding the organs such as the heart, kidneys, and adrenals as well as the neck, spine, and major thoracic blood vessels. While everybody has a fat burner, they are not equally active – and there’s the rub.

The thin person has an actively functioning innate fat burner that can easily convert excess calories into body heat. The overweight or obese person, eating the same number of calories will store them as white fat instead.

For several decades – since the 1980s – it has been known that gamma linolenic acid (GLA) stimulates brown fat activity through its prostaglandin pathways.  This is exactly why GLA has played a very central role in my Fat Flush programs for over 20 years!

Where Do You Get GLA In Its Natural Form?

This essential fatty acid can be made from safflower oil which contain cis-linoleic acid, the raw material for GLA conversion. But the conversion into biologically-available GLA is impaired because of many modern-day factors such as heating during commercial manufacturing and cooking. Other factors that interfere with GLA synthesis are excessive saturated fat intake, alcohol, smoking, caffeine, elevated cholesterol, sugar, diabetes, and deficiencies in zinc, magnesium, vitamin B6, B3, C, E, and selenium.

As a nutritionist, I was taught that we receive plenty of the essential fatty acids from vegetable oils like safflower, sunflower, and corn (which today is not only full of mold but is likely to be genetically modified).  Now we know that when oils are processed to extend shelf life or to become margarine, the cis-linoleic acid becomes trans linoleic acid – a malfunctioning fat!

To circumvent the conversion, I propose that everyone who wants effortless weight loss consider adding GLA supplementation to the diet.  The early researchers for GLA suggested that at least 360 mg per day (which translates into two GLA-90s twice per day) is helpful in assisting weight loss – even without major caloric changes.

The good news about GLA is not only can it be helpful in whittling your waist, but GLA also is a stellar skin protector and keeps it naturally moist, dewy and fresh.

After a summertime of overeating and oversunning, GLA can help restore your system to a renewed slimmer YOU and maintain a glow from head to toe!

Related Articles and Podcasts

Ann Louise Gittleman, PhD, CNS, is an award-winning New York Times bestselling author of more than thirty books including The Fat Flush Plan series and her latest book, Radical Metabolism. She’s been rewriting the rules of nutrition for more than 40 years and is internationally recognized as a pioneer in the field of diet, detox and women’s health issues. 

For a FREE daily dose of tips and strategies for maintaining healthy weight, conquering insomnia, and much more…check out my Radical Health Tips.

I’d like to meet and greet you on my Facebook groups, so won’t you check us out at the Radical Metabolism RevolutionFat Flush Nation, or my Inner Circle!


  1. ruby ann martinez

    I thought safflower oil was cla and gla was derived from black currant seed oil, borage oil or evening primrose oil. I’m a bit confused because it seems all one needs is safflower oil. Can you straighten me out on this?

    • Sierra

      Hi Ruby, safflower oil can certainly be converted into CLA, but it can also be converted into GLA. Naturally occurring sources of GLA are, as you mentioned, black currant seed oil, borage oil, and evening primrose oil. The UNI KEY GLA-90 that Ann Louise helped to formulate is derived from black currant seed oil.
      While safflower oil can be processed into GLA, these other sources need no processing, and thus the black currant seed oil is more efficiently assimilated.

  2. Marina

    I currently take black currant seed oil, will a GLA supplement in addition be too much?

    • Sierra

      Black currant seed oil contains GLA. Please aim for 360 mg per day.

  3. Laurie

    Can taking CLA cause your cholesterol on a blood panel to raise?

    • Sierra

      It will likely be an aid to lower cholesterol.

  4. Julie

    Yrs. it is a little confusing. It now looks like I can take 1 supplement for both CLA and GLA.

    • Sierra

      You can begin with the same raw ingredient in order to develop either GLA or CLA, however most supplements are only one or the other, not a combination.

  5. Sherri

    I am feeling frustrated at yet another recommendation for weight loss/nutrition that depends upon supplementation with products that are unusual, hard to get, or expensive.

    • Sierra

      Sherri, I recommend that you get the Fat Flush Plan book from UNI KEY or from your local library. The information within will be all you need to lose weight in a health manner simply by following the dietary protocol. The supplements are offered as additional help, but are not essential to achieve results.

  6. Barb

    I am so confused. Just when I read GLA is what you need to supplement with, then I read don’t add it. Help!! I do know good results come from Evening Primrose oil as an anti inflammatory. Can you take that on an ongoing basis? Should you add borage, GLA, CLA??

    • Sierra

      Evening primrose oil can often be estrogenetic and may cause breakthrough bleeding. If you do well with it, you may continue on, but black currant seed oil is the preferred source of GLA. CLA can be derived from grass fed meat and dairy, or from a safflower/sunflower oil supplement that has been processed to be bio available conjugated linoleic acid.

  7. Puppy Mommy

    I’m already taking approximately 7 grams of CLA a day and have seen wonderful results without changing my eating habits at all. My question is regarding the ability or rather, the dangers perhaps, of taking both CLA AND GLA together. I currently take my CLA with breakfast and lunch and then my biggest dose before bed because it causes me to have “fish burps”. If I can begin taking the GLA, should I take it with my meals or is it okay to take it all at once before bed? I understand the Safflower oil connection and how the one *NEEDS* to be converted and the other is fine as is. That makes total sense, I’m more concerned with the ability to take it with CLA and, if so, how often. Thanks a bunch!!

    • Team ALG

      There is no danger in taking CLA and GLA together. Aim for about 360 mg of GLA per day from black currant seed oil. Both should be taken with meals 2-3 times per day.


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