The Many Health Benefits of Flaxseed Oil
Flaxseed oil is a deep, golden oil with a light and nutty flavor. Derived from flax seeds, which have been used medicinally for thousands of years, there are many flaxseed oil benefits for your health. It is also the highest known source of omega-3 alpha linolenic acid.
Flaxseed Oil, Inflammation and Omega-3
Omega-3 fatty acids such as alpha linolenic acid (ALA), and the eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and the docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) that can be derived from it, are vital for good health and disease prevention, especially diseases of inflammation.
They are one of the building blocks of healthy, well functioning cell walls and are needed for proper intracellular communication. Given their importance at such a basic structural level, an omega-3 deficiency can lead to a wide variety of health problems.
Some of these include decreased brain function; learning problems and poor memory; lowered immune function; an increased chance of blood clots and other circulatory system issues; hypertension; declining vision; and a recurring tingling sensation in various parts of the body.
Omega-3s are also converted to hormone-like substances called prostaglandins that are involved in many other important functions throughout the body.
It’s actually hard to overstate the benefits of omega-3 fatty acids in health terms. Yet so many of us are either not getting enough of them or have an unbalanced intake of other fats that can inhibit their proper utilization.
It’s well worth keeping in mind the ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 fats in our diet. Excessive omega-6 fatty acid consumption can create an overabundance of series 2 prostaglandins, which have been shown to potentially cause an inflammatory effect on the body.
Series 2 prostaglandins are implicated in a wide variety of inflammation based diseases such as arthritis, osteoporosis, cardiovascular disease, asthma and even various skin problems. Omega-3 fatty acids, on the other hand, are needed for the creation of anti-inflammatory series 3 prostaglandins.
Ideally, a ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 should be at least 5 to 1 and many experts recommend closer to 2 to 1. With the relentlessly increasing addition of cheap, processed polyunsaturated fats into common supermarket foods, many Americans are now estimated to have an omega-6 to omega-3 ratio of at around 20 to 1, perhaps even as high as 50 to 1, in favor of potentially inflammatory omega-6 fats.
Flaxseed Oil, Cholesterol and Cardiovascular Disease
A good intake of omega-3 fatty acids in the diet has been shown to lower both LDL cholesterol (the damaging kind of cholesterol) and triglyceride blood levels. Both are well known risk factors for cardiovascular disease.
Omega-3s also have a vasodilatory (they widen blood vessels) and anti-atherogenic (reducing the formation of atherosclerotic plaques) effect on the cardiovascular system, leading to a reduced risk of heart disease and atherosclerosis.
Additionally, good levels of omega-3 fats in the diet may help prevent blood platelets sticking together and forming dangerous blood clots that can cause strokes.
A good source of omega-3 like a high quality flaxseed oil or fish oil is extremely important for maintaining a healthy heart and may help to prevent some of the deadliest diseases affecting people in Western societies.
Diabetes and Flaxseed Oil
Omega-3 fatty acids are believed to help lower some of the adverse metabolic effects of insulin resistance in diabetes by reducing triglyceride levels and lowering blood pressure. Omega-3s may also benefit circulation problems, often experiencing in those suffering from diabetes, and improve overall nerve function in general.
High EPA/DHA fish oil could be a better choice for diabetics than flaxseed oil. This is because people with diabetes may have less of an enzyme called delta-6-destaurase that is needed to convert alpha linolenic acid to EPA and DHA.
Flaxseed Oil and Depression
Research suggests the deficiency in omega-3 fats can predispose a person to psychological disorders such as depression. Recent studies, like this one on treating depression with omega-3, have shown EPA/DHA supplementation is useful for treating diagnosed unipolar depression.
For milder, occasional depression symptoms it may be even more effective. Obviously see a qualified practitioner if you believe you may be suffering from depression, but omega-3s appear to have an important role to play in healthy brain function.