Supplements

The deal with flaxseed oil: Do I really need to take it?

Aug. 8, 2013 at 5:17 PM ET

benefits of flax seed
Jeff Oshiro/Foodpix/getty images /
flaxseed oil

Pros:

  • Studies show that increased omega-3 intake in plant-based form (alpha-linolenic acid) decreases the risk of coronary heart disease.  
  • Our bodies partially convert alpha-linolenic acid (the omega-3 in flax) to the omega-3’s in fish oils, which have additional health benefits.
  • It helps our bodies balance out the large amount of omega-6 fatty acids found in the standard American diet.

Cons:

While studies do suggest that omega-3’s have strong health benefits for the prevention of coronary heart disease, none have yet proven that alpha-linolenic acid (the omega 3’s in flax) itself is responsible.

It can cause diarrhea and other gastrointestinal symptoms.

It may make more sense to take fish oil than flaxseed oil.

If you do decide to take it:

Flaxseed (not flaxseed oil) should be taken an hour before or two hours after meals so that it doesn’t interfere with absorption of other medications, vitamins and minerals.

The bottom line:

Fish oil is better for preventing heart disease; more research needs to be done to prove the benefits of flaxseed. This supplement was reviewed and evaluated by the Cleveland Clinic Wellness Prescriptive Wellness Committee. Learn more about the committee and read other supplement reviews.

A version of this story originally appeared on iVillage.


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