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Omega-3 Fatty Acids and Flax

Alpha-Linolenic Acid (ALA), an "omega-3" fatty acid, has been the focus of much flax research. Omega-3 fatty acids, are fats which the body needs but is unable to make, so they must be obtained through diet. They are also high in certain types of fatty fish, and are linked with reducing the risk of heart disease.

Flaxseed oil is the most concentrated source of ALA. (Thompson et al, 2005)

A lower risk for heart disease

Researchers believe that the protective effects of ALA against cardiac events such as thrombosis, fibrillation, and atherosclerosis are partly due to ALA’s ability to improve blood lipid profiles. In addition, once incorporated into cellular membrane phospholipids, ALA increases membrane fluidity resulting in changes in membrane function. (Prasad, 2003) These alterations may decrease the risk of Cardiovascular Disease via an influence on calcium ion exchange across the membrane. (Magee, 2002)

Anti-inflammatory effects

Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) may have protective effects in inflammatory disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis and systemic lupus erythmetosus. The anti-inflammatory actions of ALA are attributed to its ability to inhibit production of pro-inflammatory eicosanoids. Eicosanoids are lipid mediators of inflammatory reactions. (Vaisey-Genser and Morris, 2003)


Kathie Richardson
NDSU Library
Fargo, ND 58105

Last updated: 09.05.2007

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