Although there appear to be many benefits of flaxseed oil, there is no evidence to suggest that flaxseed oil is indeed effective. Some people take the oil to treat constipation, but the flaxseeds themselves actually work better as a laxative. Flaxseed oil is also claimed to provide numerous cardiovascular benefits, but there is no proof that it works for lowering cholesterol or preventing heart disease.
Flaxseed Oil Health Benefits: An Overview
Flaxseed oil (also known as linseed oil) is oil from the seed of flax. Flax is a plant that is grown throughout the United States and various parts of the world. Flaxseed oil contains omega-3 fatty acids that may provide a few different health benefits.
Flaxseed oil is not the same as flaxseed. Flaxseed oil does not contain all of the active compounds found in flaxseed. It cannot be assumed that the health benefits of flaxseed also apply to flaxseed oil.
What Are the Benefits of Flaxseed Oil?
Some people take flaxseed oil to treat constipation, but the flaxseeds themselves (whole, ground, or those found in baked goods) work better as a laxative, since the seeds (but not the oil) contain soluble fiber. Often, flaxseed oil is claimed to provide numerous cardiovascular benefits, including lowering cholesterol and preventing heart disease. However, there is no reliable evidence to suggest that flaxseed oil is effective for these uses (although flaxseeds, not flaxseed oil, may provide such benefits).
People sometimes take flaxseed oil for rheumatoid arthritis. However, research suggests that flaxseed oil probably does not provide much benefit for this use.
How Does It Work?
The active component of flaxseed oil is probably alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), an omega-3 fatty acid that may promote heart health. ALA may reduce inflammation and decrease the ability of platelets to stick together (an important step in forming blood clots).
Importantly, flaxseed does not contain two of the active compounds found in whole or ground flaxseeds -- fiber and phytoestrogens (plant-based estrogen-like compounds). This is why you cannot assume that flaxseed oil has the same health benefits as flaxseed.
Written by/reviewed by: Kristi Monson, PharmD;Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
Last reviewed by: KristiMonson, PharmD;
List of references (click here):
Jellin JM, editor. Pharmacist's Letter/Prescriber's Letter Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database Web site. Available at: http://naturaldatabase.com/. Accessed January 15, 2008.
National Center for Complimentary and Alternative Medicine. National Institutes of Health. Herbs at a glance: flaxseed oil and flaxseed oil oil (May 2006). NCCAM Web site. Available at: http://nccam.nih.gov/health/flaxseed oil/. Accessed January 15, 2008.
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