Another conversion is necessary - that of linoleic acid. Although on average we take in about five to fifteen grams of linoleic acid each day, this doesn't guarantee that linoleic acid will become transformed into the highly desirable gammalinolenic acid (GLA).
There's a towering problem with linoleic acid. Young children can readily convert it into gamma-linolenic acid. Adults can't. Although ninety-nine percent of linoleic acid cannot be converted into GLA, linoleic acid remains a reliable source of energy-one of the reasons chia seems such a nutritional powerhouse.
There are several major reasons why linoleic acid isn't converted to GLA: (1) high blood cholesterol levels; (2) too much saturated fat and harmful trans-fatty acids from eating processed junk foods; (3) high amounts of released adrenalin due to over-stress; (4) alcohol in the system, inasmuch as ten percent of calories consumed by North Americans come from alcohol; (5) diabetes; (6) atopy.
What is atopy?
Here is Dr. Horrobin's explanation:
"Atopy is an inherited susceptibility to certain diseases such as eczema, asthma, and allergic rhinitis. It is the susceptibility rather than the actual illness which is inherited. It is common to find families where one member has asthma, another rhinitis, and where some unfortunates have two or even three conditions.... About one person in five or six is atopic.... Over seventy percent of women with menstrual syndrome and over seventy percent of hyperactive children come from atopic families."
Difficulty in metabolizing linoleic acid in atopic eczema was first demonstrated in 1957 by Arild Hansen, a pediatrician from the University of Minnesota, writes Dr. Horrobin. This work lay almost unknown for over forty years until it was rediscovered and confirmed by modern techniques. Clearly, people with atopy have a defect in their ability to convert linoleic acid into gamma-linolenic acid.
In atopic conditions, victims lack a certain enzyme needed to perform the conversion. Human milk is one of the few foods containing gamma-linolenic acid. Some authorities state that breast-fed babies from healthy mothers are usually spared any atopic conditions.
Some linoleic acid from chic seeds may make it through the body's complex conversion process to become GLA. Gammalinolenic acid has been shown by many double-blind studies to improve atopic conditions such as eczema, to lower blood cholesterol levels, to block some of the ill effects of alcoholism, to relieve dry eye syndrome, and to minimize or eliminate hyperactivity (attention deficit disorders).