Showing posts with label ALA. Show all posts
Showing posts with label ALA. Show all posts

Friday, January 4, 2008

Flaxseed Oil - The Good Oil.

Flaxseed oil is an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids and contains double the amount found in fish. The most important omega-3 fatty acid found in flaxseed oil is called Alpha-linolenic Acid (ALA). This essential fatty acid cannot be synthesized by our body so it must come from our diet. ALA is important because it lowers blood cholesterol and triglyceride levels. This helps to reduce fatty deposits in the blood stream that can build up and make the walls of the blood vessels narrow and stiff. As vessels narrow and harden, blood pressure increases and blood supply becomes blocked, causing angina, stroke and heart attacks. One way ALA helps to reduce blood pressure is by increasing cell membrane fluidity and flexibility, and improving the elasticity of blood vessels. It also acts as a natural blood thinner, reducing the ability of our blood to form clots. Studies have shown that, even in healthy young men, taking flaxseed oil daily will decrease this tendency for blood platelets to form. Another function of ALA is to improve the body's inflammatory responses. Our body converts fatty acids into substances called prostaglandins - hormone-like chemicals that control inflammation. There are many types of prostaglandins and some are more inflammatory than others. When the body produces a greater amount of stronger, more inflammatory prostaglandins, it results in conditions such as arthrits, gout and joint pain, severe menstrual cramping, skin conditions such as eczema and psoriasis, and asthma. Prostaglandins that are made from omega-3 oils are weaker than those made from omega-6 oils, so a diet that includes flaxseed oil can 'down regulate' the inflammatory response and improve these inflammatory conditions. Flaxseed oil is an essential addition to the diet, but it is important for anyone who suffers from cardiovascular disease or inflammatory conditions such as arthritis, period pains or asthma. Many people are concerned about the level of heavy metals found in fish these days. (I have found the best cod liver fish oil on Earth for my toddler though. You can read that in another of my blog entries.) If you are a vegetarian or just don't like the fishy taste of cod liver or fish oil enough to take them, you can achieve your omega-3 fatty acid requirements from flaxseed oil. The only thing is that our body has to work a little more to convert ALA in flaxseed oil to EPA (Eicosapentaenoic Acid) and then to DHA (Docosahexaenoic acid). With taking cod liver or fish oils, you get EPA and DHA directly. How do we choose the right flaxseed oil?
  • Check the label to make sure the oil is cold pressed, unrefined and GMO-free.
  • Look for organic flaxseed oil because non-organic ones can sometimes carry trace amounts of pesticides and herbicides.
  • A reputable manufacturer will measure the amount of ALA contained in their flaxseed oil, so make sure the one chosen has this displayed on the label. At least 52% ALA is recommended.
  • Look for oil in opaque packaging to reduce oxidation.

Note that flaxseed oil should always be taken with food. It can be used in salads dressing, poured over cereals or mixed in yoghurt or smoothies. However, flaxseed oil is not suitable as a cooking oil.

"All that mankind needs for good health and healing is provided by God in nature...the challenge of Science is to find it." - Paracelcus, the father of Pharmcology, 1493 - 1541