This is an educational site for anyone looking for information on flaxseed oil. None of the information is a substitute for expert medical advice and should not be taken over the advice of a physician.
Flaxseed oil is a rich, vegetarian source of omega 3 and omega 6 essential fatty acids. Essential fatty acids are critical in the production of prostaglandins. In the body prostaglandins help regulate fat metabolism, inflammatory response, hormones, as well as the cardiovascular, immune and central nervous systems. There is some concern by physicians that modern diets may be too rich in omega 6 fatty acids and deficient in omega 3's, which can contribute to health concerns.
Flaxseed oil is heart-healthy because it contains alpha-linolenic acid. Flaxseed itself (ground or whole) also contains lignans, which may have antioxidant actions and may help protect against certain cancers, though this is far from certain. Skip flaxseed supplements, though.
Flaxseed oil is derived from the seeds of the flax plant. Flaxseed oil and flaxseed contain substances that promote good health. Flaxseed oil is rich in alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), an essential fatty acid that appears to be beneficial for heart disease, inflammatory bowel disease, arthritis and a variety of other health conditions. Flaxseed, in addition to ALA, contains a group of chemicals called lignans that may play a role in the prevention of cancer. Please see the flaxseed monograph for further information on this herbal agent.
ALA, as well as eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), belongs to a group of substances called omega-3 fatty acids. EPA and DHA are found primarily in fish while ALA is mostly found in flaxseed oil and other vegetable oils. Although similar in structure, the benefits of ALA, EPA, and DHA are not necessarily the same.
It is important to maintain an appropriate balance of omega-3 and omega-6 (another essential fatty acid) in the diet as these two substances work together to promote health. These essential fats are both examples of polyunsaturated fatty acids, or PUFAs. Omega-3 fatty acids help reduce inflammation and most omega-6 fatty acids tend to promote inflammation. An inappropriate balance of these essential fatty acids contributes to the development of disease while a proper balance helps maintain and even improve health. A healthy diet should consist of roughly two to four times more omega-6 fatty acids than omega-3 fatty acids. The typical American diet tends to contain 14 to 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.
Omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to reduce inflammation and help prevent certain chronic diseases such as heart disease and arthritis. These essential fatty acids appear to be particularly important for cognitive and behavioral function as well as normal growth and development.
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