We seemed to get very off-topic on a previous thread regarding the merits of flaxseed versus fish oil, so I've started a new thread.
My opinion (now shared by many colleagues), is that, although both oils have healthful benefits, the purported benefits of flaxseed oil have not stood up to clinical testing. Add to that the availablility of very high quality purified, concentrated and encapsulated fish oil supplements versus the highly labile (heat and oxygen) properties of flaxseed oil, and I think we have a clear winner for UL hiking supplements.
Here's a synopsis from the previous thread:
Fish oil or flaxseed oil? That is the question posed by millions of health-conscious people each day. But what is the main reason why millions of people are reaching for either fish oil or flaxseed oil? If you said omega-3 fatty acids then you're correct.
But what if I told you that one of these oils doesn't present us with a viable or usable source of omega-3s in the body? Pretty shocking, eh!
Well the truth of the matter is that fish oil offers you a much better omega-3 "bang for your buck". Why? It all boils down to two important compounds known as EPA and DHA.
We need EPA and DHA to protect our heart, for healthy brain and eye development, prevention and treatment of skin diseases, arthritis, for immune function and more.
Why Not Just Eat Flax?
For decades a debates have been fought about whether flaxseed oil could provide adequate levels of EPA. The verdict - flaxseed should never be used for its EPA producing ability.
Flaxseed oil is a wonderful healing oil but it is not a source of EPA.
Having said, I will often add flaxseed oil to many of my salad dressings and other foods but it is not the oil I use for EPA and DHA.
Research shows that flaxseed oil is poorly converted to EPA and that it provides absolutely no DHA. One study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition evaluated 45 healthy men and post-menopausal women (18 to 65). They all had normal cholesterol and were asked to eat olive oil as their oil source. They were divided into 3 groups. One got ALA (alpha linolenic acid - from flax) and the other two with a supplemental form of EPA.
Each was given 750mg for 3 weeks and then 1,500mg for 3 weeks in a supplement. Both the EPA groups had significant increases in EPA in red blood cells however there was no increase in EPA in the ALA (flax) group. Neither the ALA nor EPA group showed significant increases in DHA; which, means that we should also supplement with DHA.
The reason why the flax ALA group did not witness an increase in EPA in red blood cells is because of an enzyme in the body that is needed to convert ALA to EPA.
This enzyme called the Delta-6-desaturase if not working properly stops the conversion of ALA to EPA. The Flax Council of Canada states that flaxseed has a limited conversion to EPA in healthy people of up to only 8%! However, new very sophisticated studies are showing that this is even rare.
The reasons why the Delta-6-desaturase enzyme does not work as well as why we can't convert ALA to EPA are as follows (not an exhaustive list):
* Anyone with diabetes has a faulty delta-6 enzyme
* Viral infection
* Allergic disease
* High cholesterol
* Stress hormones
* Menopause (menopausal women have been found to have an inactive enzyme)
* Arachidonic acid
* Saturated fat
* Trans fatty acid consumption in the diet
* Nutrient deficiency of Zinc, B6, vitamin C
I would like to hear others ideas, opinions etc...I for one use a flaxseed/borage oil in a lot of dressings, as I both like the taste, and think the lignans in flaxseed are potentially valuable in the prevention of certain diseases. I keep this oil in the freezer for longevity. I take pharmaceutical grade fish oil for my source of essential omega-3 (plus eat salmon a few times per week). When I hit the trail I take only the fish oil caps, as the thought of rancid flaxseed oil is not appelaing to me (I use olive oil instead).