Flaxseed Oil

Macronutrient

OVERVIEW

Summary

With many Americans following a “low-fat” diet to avoid being overweight and doing their best to stay healthy, why is our nation still gaining so much weight? It’s not too much fat in our diets (literally) killing us but too little of the “right” kinds of fat. Essential fatty acids, or EFA’s, as found in flaxseeds, are required for our overall health, including proper fat metabolism, energy production, regulation of cell functions, and healing of tissues and injuries. Flaxseed, a “good” fat, can both help us stay fit and healthy, while unhealthy “bad” fats compromise our health and performance.

Other names for Flaxseed Oil

flaxseed, flax, linseed oil, linseed

Where to find Flaxseed Oil

The sole source of flaxseed oil is flaxseeds. Small amounts of ALA, the type of omega-3 oil found in flaxseed, can also be found in canola, black currant, walnut, and soybean oils.

PERFORMANCE BENEFITS

Why athletes use Flaxseed Oil

Active people report that flaxseed supplements help them recover more quickly after workouts and help decrease post-workout muscle soreness. Researchers believe this effect may be because flaxseed has both antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Researchers also believe flaxseed oil may increase the body’s metabolic rate and help the body burn fat more quickly. Many athletes report that using flaxseed oil in their diets helps their sprains and bruises heal more rapidly. According to some findings, minor injuries can take only one-quarter of the healing time previously required.

Ways that Flaxseed Oil can enhance Muscle Gain & Recovery:
  • Decrease inflammation to help decrease muscle soreness and improve flexibility
  • Improve healing and aid in recovery by contributing to the structural integrity of cells
Ways that Flaxseed Oil can enhance Fat Loss:
  • Support healthy weight reduction by increasing the body’s metabolic rate, making fats burn more rapidly

HEALTH BENEFITS

Signs of Flaxseed Oil deficiency

Although there is no direct deficiency of flaxseed, there are numerous complications associated with deficiencies of omega-3 fatty acids. Because flaxseed supplies omega-3 fatty acids, it can help reduce the chances of those insufficiencies.

Potential uses for Flaxseed Oil

Research indicates that Flaxseed Oil may be useful in the treatment of:

  • Obesity
  • Arthritis
  • Constipation
  • Herpes
  • Hypertension (high blood pressure)
  • Skin conditions, such as eczema or psoriasis
  • Cancer

DISCUSSION

More about Flaxseed Oil

Fifty-four percent of Americans are overweight, and 22% of them are considered obese… Is that so startling, considering there’s a fat, I mean, fast-food joint on nearly every street corner? With many of us following a “low-fat” diet to avoid being overweight and doing our best to stay healthy, why are we still gaining so much weight — fat weight to be precise? Well, it’s not too much fat in our diets (literally) killing us but too little of the “right” kind of fat.

In reality, many Americans are suffering from a massive fat deficiency that is contributing to the rise of obesity, diabetes, arthritis, breast cancer, depression, immune-system dysfunction, PMS, hyperactivity in children, and many more ill-fated complications common today. Believe it or not, it takes (good) fat to lose (bad) fat. This is what’s wrong with many “low-fat” nutrition programs offered these days. While they do help people shed unwanted bodyfat, they don’t necessarily do so in a healthy manner. “Good fats,” also known as essential fatty acids, on the other hand, actually increase our metabolic rate and improve our overall health at the same time.

Essential fats are so named because they are “essential” to our body’s normal cell functioning, and we cannot produce them on our own; thus, they must be supplemented or consumed as part of our normal diets. Essential fatty acids, or EFA’s, are required for our overall health, including proper metabolism, energy production, regulation of cell functions, and healing of tissues and injuries. EFA’s can help us stay fit and healthy, while those dreaded unhealthy “bad” fats, such as the processed fats found in fried foods or margarine, compromise health and performance.

Flaxseed is one of the “best” readily available sources of essential fatty acids (EFA’s). Flaxseed contains a very important substance known as omega-3 fats — labeled by many leading nutritionists as “the fat that heals.” Like most unsaturated oils, flaxseed oil contains linolenic acid. But flaxseed differs from most vegetable oils because it contains alpha-linolenic acid or ALA, which is high in these all-important omega-3 fats. In fact, it is the best-known source of alpha-linolenic acid (omega-3 fats) available, as well as being a good source of some very important vitamins and minerals.

Support for an active lifestyle

Active people report that flaxseed supplements help them recover more quickly after workouts and help decrease post-workout muscle soreness. Researchers believe this effect may be because flaxseed has both antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Studies suggest that flaxseed decreases muscle breakdown, aids in the transfer of oxygen from the lungs to the bloodstream, and supports hormone secretions by regulating prostaglandins, which are hormone-like substances that support many of the major systems in our bodies, including our reproductive, immune, and nervous systems.

Researchers also believe flaxseed oil may increase the body’s metabolic rate and help the body burn fat more quickly. Animal studies support this theory, although more research is needed to determine if it is an effective weight-loss tool for humans.

Many athletes report that using flaxseed oil in their diets helps their sprains and bruises heal more rapidly. According to some findings, minor injuries can take only one-quarter of the healing time previously required. Again, research suggests this may be due to flaxseed’s anti-inflammatory properties. Controlled studies are currently being conducted to document or disprove this theory. But for now, it looks promising.

Therapeutic uses

Recent studies suggest flaxseed oil offers powerful cardiovascular protection by improving arterial circulation, arterial function, and energy production. And, as little as one tablespoon of flaxseed oil a day has also been shown to significantly lower blood pressure.

The National Cancer Institute became interested in flaxseed after European studies revealed it could shrink certain tumors and combat cancers found in breast, prostate, and lung cells. And it is currently being examined extensively for these potential benefits.

Flaxseed also contains a type of anti-inflammatory agent that may help relieve the painful symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis, and other inflammatory conditions. It also helps construct the membranes in every cell in the body, protecting them from harmful invaders and contributing to their structural integrity.

High-protein dieters take special note

Too much protein in our daily diet and what tends to happen? The unpleasantness of constipation occurs. Working in opposition of protein’s tendency to constipate, flaxseed oil helps soften protein-hardened stool, allowing us to be more “regular.” And it does so without adding “fattening” or bad fats to the diet.

Another study that is noteworthy shows free testosterone levels tend to drop drastically when “low-fat” diets or calorie-restricted diets are employed. Even a small decrease in dietary fats was revealed to have reduced the amount of free testosterone by 13%. However, with the introduction of healthy, “good” fats into the diet, researchers found subjects free testosterone levels increased. Clearly, supplementing with flaxseed oil during times of dieting would appear useful for those seeking to increase or at least preserve their lean mass.

Caveats

One of the downsides to flaxseed in the form of oil is its instability when exposed to light, air, heat, or metal. For that reason, some individuals prefer taking flaxseed oil in capsule form or including flaxseeds in their daily diet regimen. But a working refrigerator is all that is needed to keep your flaxseed oil fresh and cold.

In conclusion

While the research continues on, many sports nutrition experts are already highly recommending this powerful “good” fat. Because the research has already revealed flaxseed may support healthy hormone secretions, decrease muscle soreness, and fight both free radicals and inflammation, at the very least, it could supply your body with an extra aid for recovery and allow you to exercise more intensely — or just plain live a healthier life.

NOTES ON USAGE

Amount

One to 3 Tbsp (15 to 45 ml) per day of the oil or up to three 1,000-mg capsules are typically found to be the most effective dosages.

Timing

Flaxseed should be consumed with food (i.e., separately with meals or in a protein drink or meal-replacement shake).

Tips

Flax oil can be used on salads and vegetables and actually tastes great. The seeds can be ground (in a coffee grinder) and mixed with water, juice, yogurt, cereals, or other foods.

Do not expose flaxseed oil to heat (i.e., cook with it) as this will break it down and destroy its beneficial properties.

Synergists of Flaxseed Oil

No synergists have been noted.

Safety of Flaxseed Oil

If you are using or considering using prescription drugs, please consult with your practitioner about possible contraindications with flaxseed.

Toxicity of Flaxseed Oil

No known toxicity.

Bans and restrictions

None reported.

RELATED RESEARCH

  • Cunnane, S.C., et al., “High Alpha-Linolenic Acid Flaxseed (Linum usitatissimum): Some Nutritional Properties in Humans,” Br J Nutr 69.2 (1993) : 443-53.
  • Cunnane, S.C., “Nutritional Attributes of Traditional Flaxseed in Healthy Young Adults (see comments),” Am J Clin Nutr 61.1 (1995) : 62-8.
  • Jenkins, D.J., et al., “Health Aspects of Partially Defatted Flaxseed, Including Effects on Serum Lipids, Oxidative Measures, and Ex Vivo Androgen and Progestin Activity: A Controlled Crossover Trial,” Am J Clin Nutr 69.3 (1999) : 395-402.