What is Dihomogamma Linolenic? High and low values | Lab results explained

What is Dihomo-gamma-linolenic acid (DGLA)?

Dihomo-gamma-linolenic acid (DGLA) is a fatty acid and part of the Omega-6 fatty acids family. Those fatty acids can predominatentely be found in vegetable oils, grains, most meats and dairy. 

DGLA is a strong anti-inflammatory.

What are fatty acids?

Fatty acids are the building blocks of the fat in our bodies and in the food we eat. During digestion, the body breaks down fats into fatty acids, which can then be absorbed into the blood.

When looking at the omega-6 fatty acids, practitioners often specifically look at the Arachidonic acid. A high level of the Arachidonic acid marker is an indication of a cascade of inflammation. What is often not looked at too closely is the need for arachidonic acid. Getting arachidonic acid as low might be a too simplistic strategy as arachidonic acid is needed for cell viscosity, for example. 

Fatty acids can be divided into four general categories: saturatedmonounsaturatedpolyunsaturated, and trans fats.

Dihomo-gamma-linolenic acid (DGLA) is derived from the essential linolenic acid. LA is metabolized to GLA, which is rapidly elongated to DGLA. 

The inability to convert precursor fatty acids to DGLA is associated with various pathologic and physiologic conditions such as:

– aging, 
– diabetes, 
– alcoholism, 
– atopic dermatitis, 
– rheumatoid arthritis, 
– cancer, 
– and cardiovascular disease.

DGLA is a precursor to prostaglandin PGE1, which:

– inhibits platelet aggregation and inflammation, 
– produces vasodilation, 
– inhibits cholesterol biosynthesis and thrombus formation, 
– regulates immune responses 
– and reduces blood pressure. 

It is also involved in inhibiting the formation of pro-inflammatory compounds from AA. 

PGE1 can also inhibit growth and differentiation of cancer cells. Although the mechanism of DGLA in cancer has not yet been identified, the potential benefits are being studied.

DGLA-enriched oils and fermented DGLA oil supplements are being developed with excellent safety profiles and studied in a variety of clinical conditions.

Let’s take a closer look at the “Essential Fatty Acid Metabolism” cascade and the omega 6 family:

Linoleic Acid 
(grains, vegetable oils) 
Enzymatic Conversion:
Delta-6 Desaturase
Vitamin and Mineral Cofactors:
B2, B3, B6, Vit C, Insulin, Zinc, Magnesium

Gamma-Linolenic Acid 
(evening primroses, borage, black currant) 
Enzymatic Conversion:
Vitamin and Mineral Cofactors:
B3, B6, B5, Biotin, Vit C

Dihomo-g-Linolenic Acid
Delta-5 Desaturase
Vitamin and Mineral Cofactors:
B2, B3, B6, Vit C, Insulin, Zinc, Magnesium
Arachidonic Acid



Decreased intake of the essential LA, or inefficient metabolism of the omega-6 fatty acids can lead to decreased production of DGLA. Lack of vitamin or mineral cofactors, or SNPs in the elongase and desaturase enzymes can contribute to lower DGLA levels either from production to DGLA or increased metabolism to AA. It should also be emphasized that smoking, alcohol, and systemic inflammation can slow the elongase enzyme and conversion to DGLA.

Due to the anti-inflammatory and beneficial effects of DGLA, low levels have significant clinical associations such as: 

– diabetes, 
– alcoholism, 
– atopic dermatitis, 
– rheumatoid arthritis, 
– cancer, 
– and cardiovascular disease. 

Decreased levels are associated with increased total mortality in patients with acute cardiac events and decompensated heart failure.

DGLA comes from the conversion of GLA (Gamma-Linolenic Acid).

If DGLA is low, there are a few different potential treatmenet options. 

Two of those options are:

1. Increase your GLA (Gamma-Linolenic Acid) by supplementing evening primroseborageblack currant. By increasing GLA one should then increase the conversion from GLA to DGLA and hence increase the value of DGLA.
2. Another option to look at is the enzymatic conversions (Delta-6 Desaturase and Elongase). Are they working well? You can look at some of the co-factors that are needed for these enzymatic conversions to work properly (B Vitamins, Vitamin C, etc.)

Important note: You do not want to increase DGLA too high as it then converts into Arachidonic Acid. AA is involved in a cascade of inflammatory processes. 


Supplementation with DGLA or GLA, as well as high dietary intake of the essential LA, can lead to higher DGLA levels. 

Lack of vitamin and mineral cofactors (B2, B3, B6, Vit C, Insulin, Zinc, Magnesium), or SNPs in the enzyme which converts DGLA downstream to arachidonic acid, may also contribute to elevations. 

Higher DGLA levels are mainly beneficial due to its anti-inflammatory role. Although there is some concern regarding DGLA being converted to its pro-inflammatory metabolite, arachidonic acid, the conversion is generally limited. The reason for this limitation is that inflammatory arachidonic acid-derived lipid mediators (eicosanoids) are made via several pathways two of which are cyclooxygenase (COX) and lipoxygenase (LOX). The synthesis of AA eicosanoids is dependent on DGLA since DGLA competes with AA for COX and LOX. When DGLA is in excess, it inhibits the synthesis of AA-derived eicosanoids due to its higher affinity for the COX and LOX enzymes.

High levels of DGLA are associated with the following:

– elevated body mass index,

– waist circumference,

– body fat percentage,

– and other obesity-related parameters.

It should be noted that some of these clinical associations are related to increased overall intake of omega-6 fatty acids. But insulin itself can downregulate the enzyme delta-5-desaturase which synthesizes AA from DGLA. 

Therefore, obesity and insulin resistance can affect delta-5-desaturase resulting in higher DGLA levels.


Test results may vary depending on your age, gender, health history, the method used for the test, and other things. Your test results may not mean you have a problem. Ask your healthcare provider what your test results mean for you. 

The information on is NOT intended to replace a one-on-one relationship with a qualified health care professional and is not intended as medical advice.

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