Impaired conversion of linoleic acid to γ-linolenic acid (GLA) has been demonstrated in animal diabetes and inferred from blood fatty acid profiles in human diabetes. This impairment could theoretically lead to defective nerve function because metabolites of GLA are known to be important in nerve membrane structure, nerve blood flow, and nerve conduction. Administration of GLA corrects the impaired nerve function in animal models of diabetes. Two multicenter, randomized, placebo-controlled trials in humans with diabetic neuropathy have shown significant benefits of GLA as compared with placebo in neurophysiological parameters, thermal thresholds, and clinical sensory evaluations. Further work is needed to define the place of this therapeutic approach and its interactions with other treatment modalities.

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