Flaxseed oil comes from the seeds of the flax plant. It contains 50 – 60% omega-3 fatty acids in the form of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), which the body converts into eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), the omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oil. Flax oil is the richest source of ALA in the world (15 ml of flax oil contains 8000mg of ALA).
Getting a good balance of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids in the diet is important. These essential fats are both examples of poly-unsaturated fatty acids, or PUFAs. They are called “essential” because the body cannot make them, so they must come from the diet. These two essential fatty acids (EFA’s) are hormone precursor fats that are used by the body to create prostaglandins. The prostaglandins created from Omega-3 ALA and Omega-6 LA are different and produces an opposite effect in the body. Omega-6 based prostaglandins increase blood platelet stickiness, increase blood viscosity and increase tissue inflammation at the cellular level. Omega-3 based prostaglandins reduce blood platelet stickiness, reduce blood viscosity, thinning the blood and reduce tissue inflammation at the cellular level. A healthy balance in today’s diet many researchers suggest is a ratio upwards of 2:1 of omega-3 to omega-6. However the typical American diet tends to contain 14 – 25 times more omega-6 fatty acids than omega-3 fatty acids. This is believed to be a significant factor in the rising rate of inflammatory disorders in the United States. The diminished amount of omega-3 in the food supply is also implicated in many health conditions from inadequate brain development in the developing infant, improper brain and cell growth through the formative years and insufficient cell function in the adult years. It is just now beginning to be understood how the lack of omega-3 in the food supply contributes to the onset and aggravation of many physical diseases, maladies and mental health states.