The benefits of flax seed oil have been trumpeted lately. But what are the benefits of flaxseed oil?

There are a number of different Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids. The main one of benefit to us is called DHA, or what is technically called Docosahexaenoic acid. DHA is the dominant Omega 3 fatty acid found in our brains.

Also important, though less important than DHA, is another Omega 3 fat called EPA, or Eicosapentaenoic acid. Both EPA and DHA are found in fish and some other marine sources, and it’s the DHA in particular, but also the EPA, that is the main component of fish oil capsules, and the reason why they are so good for us.

But these 2 are not the only Omega 3 fats. There’s also some plant based Omega 3 fats. ALA, or Alpha-linolenic acid, is an Omega fat that is found in plants and particularly in flaxseeds. So the benefits of flax seed oil are often promoted along with the benefits of fish oil.

Lets examine the health benefits of flaxseed oil and see if you ought to be taking flaxseed oil supplements. Note that it’s not only in flaxseeds that ALA is found, there are other plant sources of ALA, such as walnuts, but flax seeds are a good source and the oil, containing ALA, can be extracted from the seeds to make flaxseed oil supplements.

Flax seed oil benefits primarily revolve around the ability of the body to use the ALA from the oil and convert it into DHA and EPA. The body does not  use the ALA directly, but it can turn it into those other 2 essential fatty acids.

The difference between DHA, EPA and ALA lies in their carbon bonds. For various highly chemical reasons the body can make use of DHA and EPA directly, but cannot make use of ALA. However the body is able to convert ALA into DHA and EPA.

ALA itself has not been shown to have the health benefits of the other 2 Omega fats.
Health Benefits Of Flax Seed Oil

Therefore the medical benefits of flaxseed oil lie in the ability of the body to convert the ALA. Unfortunately the body is not very efficient in doing this, and only a small proportion of the ALA is actually converted. Of course if you took a lot of flaxseed oil supplements your body may be able to convert enough to satisfy the need for an adequate amount of DHA and EPA.

But why not get your DHA and EPA directly, from fish oil supplements, rather than indirectly, from flaxseed oil capsules? It’s more efficient to do it that way. If you take fish oil supplements you’ll get your DHA and EPA direct, and at better value.

However there are people who see an advantage of using flax seed oil capsules. For example vegetarians who would not eat fish are unable to take fish oil supplements. So should they be taking flax seed oil capsules?

Yes, for vegetarians it’s much better to get the benefits of flax seed oil supplements than to get no Omega 3 fats at all. They won’t be eating any fish so may well have an even higher need for good healthy polyunsaturated fats than the general population.

However there are also vegetarian Omega 3 supplements available from marine sources that don’t have any fish oil. Actually the Omega 3 fats found in fish oil are there from what the fish eats. Fish eat, amongst other things, microalgea and it’s from these that the Omega 3 fats are sourced.

So it is possible to get marine based vegetarian Omega 3 supplements. Whether these are better than flax seed oil supplements will be the subject of another article. A warning though, they are quite difficult to find.

So, in answer to the question about the benefits of flaxseed oil, yes there are benefits. But these benefits are derived from the DHA and EPA that the body gets from converting the ALA in flax seed oil. So why not take that DHA and EPA directly?

There is no doubt that flax seeds are good for you.  Eat them by all means, but it is not as successful taking flax seed oil supplements as it is taking fish oil supplements.

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