Flax Seed Oil

Flax seed oil is the new rock star on the wellness block, and enthusiasts can't seem to have enough of it. As one of the leading dietary supplements on the western diet today, it is fast being retailed across health and nutrition magazines, books, websites, and health stores as "Nature's Powerhouse" an essential pill next only to multivitamins. We look into some of the widely made claims made in its name presently.

Top Claims

  1. Flax seed oil reduces the risk of stroke, heart disease, and cancer.
  2. Lignans in flaxseed have antioxidant and cancer-preventive properties.
  3. Flax seed or Linseed oil, is nature's richest source of omega-3 fatty acids

What is the big deal about Flax seed oil?

Flax Seed Oil contains omega-6 and omega-9 essential fatty acids, B vitamins, potassium, lecithin, magnesium, fiber, protein, and zinc. As an added advantage it is also said to provide roughly 50% more omega-3 oils than what we can get from taking fish oil, that helps avoid the notorious fishy after taste.

Does taking flax seed oil prevent cancer?

When it comes to flax seed, it is very important to note that it is the fibrous shell/hull of the flaxseed and not the oil that is understood to contain healing, cancer-fighting potencies. The presence of special plant chemicals (phytochemical constituents) in the shell, known as 'Lignan' when eaten by humans converts into potent cancer fighting and preventive compounds called mammalian lignans. Lignan prevents cancer by helping normalize hormone metabolism responsible for the disease.

Extracted linseed oil does not contain the lignans found in flax seed,and therefore does not have the same antioxidant properties. Only some brands of supplement have lignans added during production. So, if you are taking Flaxseed oil supplements with cancer preventive potencies in mind, look out for the one carrying the highest lignan content.

Dr. Ross Pelton, author of 'How to Prevent Breast cancer' (Fireside, 1995), suggests that every woman take at least one tablespoon of highest lignan content flaxseed oil daily to prevent breast cancer. These recommendations are furthered by Samuel S. Epstein, M.A., and David Steinman, M.A, coauthors of 'The Breast cancer Prevention Program (Macmillain, 1998), who call Flax a 'profound' inhibitor of breast cancer and other malignancies.

Flax seed or Linseed oil, is nature's richest source of omega-3 fatty acids.

Flax Oil is nature's richest source of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), one of the three main omega-3 essential fatty acids (and not all omega-3 fatty acids). The two other main Omega-3 fatty acids are found abundantly in coldwater fish instead.

ALA is the parent compound of all omega-3 fatty acid. Our body is known to naturally convert ALA to EPA and DHA. However, to convert it to the other 2 - EPA and DHA, is a lot of hard work for the body, and it takes a whole lot of grams of flaxseed oil to produce the required amount of EPA and DHA.

Should you take flax seed oil or fish oil or bit of both?

Flaxseed provides the Omega-3 fatty acid, alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) - the big daddy - or the seminal or parent compound of all omega-3 fatty acids. Coldwater fish on the other hand provide the notoriously hard to spell and even harder to pronounce - eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) essential oils. They both enjoy great health benefits and are recommended by the FDA, American Heart Association, the Alzheimer's Association, the American Eye Institute and the Arthritis Foundation among others.

The ALA from flax seed oil does not directly provide most health benefits. The body must first convert it to DHA and EPA in order to work. The older you are, the less ability your body has in converting ALA to DHA/EPA. Moreover, it is estimated that most adults would have to consume 10 - 40 grams of flax seed oil to produce just 0.2 grams of DHA. So, if its omega 3 essential EPA and DHA you are after, don't bother with flax seed oil. Just reach out for fish oil instead.

Remember, that neither Omega-3 fatty acid is superior to the other. With clearly different functions, they are both important to our health, so don't ignore one at the cost of the other.

People who use flax seed oil in cooking to enhance the benefits, should be aware that heat breaks down the acids.

Why is taking Omega-3 fatty acids through supplements so important?

The shocking truth about Omega 3 fatty acids for wellness illiterates is, that our bodies do not, rather cannot manufacture it. We have to rely completely on the food we eat to obtain required doses, without which, a whole lot of wear and tear, cellular maintenance of the body is hard to keep up with. The trouble is - that we do not get enough of Omega -3 in our standard daily diet. A growing number of people are critically deficient in these essential nutrients.

Did You Know: Most of us are deficient in Omega-3 fatty acid.


Flaxseed oil may have an adverse effect due to its content of neurotoxiccyanogen glycosides and immuno-suppressive cyclic nonapeptides.

Flax seed oil is easily oxidized, and rapidly becomes rancid with an unpleasant odor unless refrigerated.

Even when kept under cool conditions it has a shelf life of only a few weeks.

Oil with an unpleasant or rancid odor should be discarded. Rancid oils contribute to the formation of free radicals and may be carcinogenic.