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Tips on Supplementing Omega-3's Using Flax Seed Oil

written by: 00orange00 • edited by: Diana Cooper • updated: 10/7/2010

It is easy to use flax seed oil as your main omega 3 supplement. Successfully using flax seed oil to provide your body with essential fatty acids requires some understanding on how different oils interact. Here are some tips on using flax seed oil successfully.

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    How to Ensure Success When You Use Flax Seed Oil Supplementation

    Flax seed oil is a good source of omega-3 fatty acids but in order to make it possible for your body to really make use of the omega-3 fatty acids from flax seed oil, the best way to use it will take the interplay of the different fatty acids in all of your dietary sources into account.

    In order to use the alph-linolenic (LNA) omega-3 fatty acids you are getting from your flax seed oil your cells will need to convert them into EPA, and DHA (the omega-3 forms that you get pre-formed from fish oil). Standard supermarket vegetable oils interfere with your ability to absorb and convert the omega-3 fatty acids you get from flax seed oil. Among other things, the oils you buy in the supermarket are high in omega-6 fatty acids. This is important because, at the cellular level omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids are in competition and if there are too many omega-6 fatty acids in your system, you will not be able to use your flax seed source (LNA) omega-3 fatty acids to produce the EPA and DHA that you need.

    The other reason for avoiding supermarket oils is because of the trans and otherwise damaged fatty acids that they contain. Even though some supermarket oils (such as canola oil) originally contained omega-3 fatty acids, any omega-3 fatty acids that remain in such highly processed and refined oils will be damaged or non-existent. Many omega-6 fatty acids are likely to be damaged as well. This is important because the damaged omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids in these oils are trans fatty acids, and are harmful to your cellular metabolism.

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    Omega-3 and Omega-6 Competition

    The Omega-3 and omega-6 balance in your overall diet influences your ability to use the omega-3 fatty acids that you get from flax seed. There is a competition that goes on at the cell membranes for the use of fatty acid elongating enzymes. The same enzymes which are also used for converting omega-3 fatty acids into EPA and DHA also convert omega-3 into the longer forms which the body uses. If you consume many more omega-6 than omega-3 fatty acids in your diet, these enzymes will be processing omega-6 fatty acids at the expense of the omega-3 fatty acids. If this is the case, your cellular make-up will not reflect the omega-3 levels that you are consuming and you will not appear to benefit from consuming flax seed oil.

    In the past researchers have mistaken the variability of results in flax seed oil versus fish oil observations to mean that cellular enzymes are compromised and simply not able to make the needed conversion of flax seed alpha linoleic acid into DHA and EPA. However, careful studies have shown that it is simply a matter of balancing omega-3 and omega-6 intake and that if total dietary oils are taken into account and properly balanced, flax seed oil serves just as well as fish oil as a source of omega-3 fatty acids.

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    Balancing Your Fats and Oils: A Summary

    For optimum cell membrane function you need to maximize the essential fatty acid content of your diet, balance your omega-3 and omega-6 sources, minimize saturated fatty acid content and eliminate trans fats. Flax seed oil is an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids because it is relatively inexpensive compared to fish oil, it will not contain traces of contaminants such as mercury and other food chain toxins, and it will not contain lipid peroxides (if it does you will know by the bad taste and you won't accidentally use it).

    When you use flax seed oil you need to be especially careful that you observe the ratio of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids present in your diet. These fatty acids need to be present in equal amounts ideally, or perhaps in a ration of one omega-3 to four omega-6 fatty acids. This is important if flax seed oil is to be properly utilized as a source of omega-3 fatty acids. It is also important for the effect that it will have upon inflammatory and non-inflammatory prostaglandins in the body.

    Please read the articles on trans fats in the health and nutrition for more information on these toxic fatty acids. Eliminating trans fats is not as simple as just reading labels. Modern oil and food processing techniques routinely damage oils. Many foods and oils contain trans fats and otherwise damaged fats even when they are labeled as being trans fats free. I am not completely sure of the reason for this, but I can assure you, eliminating damaging oils from your diet requires gaining some understanding of how oils and fats are affected by processing.


    Gordon, Garry, M.D., D.O., M.D.(H.), Herb Joiner-Bey, N.D.(2004).The Omega-3 Miracle. Freedom Press, Topanga, CA

    Murray, T. N.D. and Jade Beutler, R.R.T., R.C.P.,(1996). Understanding Fats & Oils, Progressive Health Publishing, Encinitas, CA.

Inflammatory Disease and Omega-3, Omega-6 Balance

Essential Fatty Acids need to be properly balanced for good health. Many modern diseases can be referred to as inflammatory diseases. They are caused by an imbalance of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids in the diet.
  1. How to Overcome Chronic Inflammatory Disease by Changing Your Diet
  2. Flax Seed Oil Versus Fish Oil: The Best Omega-3 Source
  3. Tips on Supplementing Omega-3's Using Flax Seed Oil