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September 22, 2008

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Healthy Oil Guy

Yes, flaxseed oil is a great plant source of omega 3 fatty acids. I also like to use pharmaceutical-grade fish oils to get a higher dose of the omega 3 fatty acids, EPA and DHA.

However, there is some limiting factors to how much your body converts the alpha linolenic acid (ALA) found in flaxseed oil into EPA or DHA...especially if you're a man or woman.

Scientists in the UK discovered that increasing your intake of ALA over a period of weeks to months will increase your EPA levels,but there was no increase in DHA.

Using radioisotopes, scientists found the conversion of ALA to EPA in men was 8%. And to make matters worse, it turns out the conversion of ALA to DHA was even lower...a paltry amount of less than 0.1%!

Members of the fairer sex did a little better. Conversion of ALA to DHA in women was 9%. Scientists believe that estrogen in women may cause this improved conversion.

Apparently, women convert ALA to DHA more effectively to meet the demands of DHA for the fetus during pregnancy and breast feeding.

Further studies performed in Switzerland also support the fact our bodies aren't very efficient at converting ALA to DHA.

Research by Swiss scientists found the conversion of ALA to EPA to be 6% and to DHA only 3.8%.

They also found that eating a diet high in omega 6 fatty acids (lots of vegetable oils, baked goods and processed foods) caused the conversion rate to lower another 40 to 50%.


Research Reference:
Conversion of alpha-linolenic acid to longer-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids in human adults. Burdge GC, Calder PC. Reproduction, Nutrition and Development. 2005 Sep-Oct;45(5):581-97.

Conversion of alpha-linolenic acid to eicosapentaenoic, docosapentaenoic and docosahexaenoic acids in young women. Burdge GC, Wootton SA. British Journal of Nutrition. 2002 Oct;88(4):411-20.

Can adults adequately convert alpha-linolenic acid (18:3n-3) to eicosapentaenoic acid (20:5n-3) and docosahexaenoic acid (22:6n-3)? Internatioanl Journal for Vitamin and Nutrition Research. 1998;68(3):159-73.


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