How to Use Flaxseed Oil for Health Benefits
What is Flax Seed?
- Flax Seed
- Common Flax
- Linum usitatissimum
- Yellow or Golden
Where does flaxseed come from?
Where does Flax Seed Come From?
Where is flaxseed cultivated and harvested?
- Eastern Mediterranean
Flax seed comes from the annual, flax plant. The flax seeds can be found in the pods (also called capsules) of the flax plant. The flax plant also features blue five petaled flowers.
Flax was cultivated in ancient Egypt and used to create fibers. These fibers were also dyed and have been found in prehistoric caves. Historians have documented the cultivation of flaxseed as early as 3000 BC.
Flax Seed Oil Benefits
There is some evidence flax seed oil may help reduce your risk of
- heart disease
There is also evidence that flax seed oil may improve
Although flaxseed contains all sorts of healthy components, it owes its healthy reputation primarily to three ingredients:
- Omega-3 essential fatty acids, good fats that have been shown to have heart-healthy effects.
- Lignans, which have both plant estrogen and antioxidant qualities.
- Fiber. Flaxseed contains both soluble and insoluble fiber
Fatty Acids in Flax: Omega 3
There are two types of fatty acid that are considered essential for the human body. These are known as Omega-3 and Omega-6. These particular fatty acids cannot be synthesized by the body. This is to say, the body does not naturally produce these fatty acids and they must be obtained through our diet.
Vegetable oils are high in Omega-6 acids and flaxseed oil is rich in Omega-3 fatty acids. In addition, flaxseed oil is high in ALA - alpha-linolenic acid.
Examples of Omega-3 rich foods
- fish oil
- flaxseed oil
- canola oil
How Omega 3 Fatty Acids Help Improve Brain Function
First, a bit of vocabulary.
EFA: the chief component in the membrane that surrounds the cells of the human body.
Phospholipids: the part of the EFA's that determine the fluidity and integrity of the cell membrane.
For the most part it is obvious that the average American diet consists of unhealthy fast foods and processed meals. These foods contain high levels of saturated fat, cholesterol and trans fat. This includes beef, dairy and hydrogenated oils. The negative effect of these foods lies in the cell membrane. These unhealthy foods cause the cell membrane to become stiff and somewhat rigid. So what does this mean? Unhealthy foods break down the integrity and fluidity of the cell by directly affecting the EFA's and phospholipids of the cell.
Nerve cell function is a vital and dependent of membrane fluidity. Nerve function in the brain affects a complex blend of actions and reactions. This includes behavior, mood and mental function. If the cell membrane is negatively affected by being stiff it is plain to see how it would cause a negative outcome in these functions.
Therefore, if we eat a diet rich in unhealthy fats and hydrogenated oils it will impair the nerve function in the brain. However, if we eat a diet rich in healthy fatty acids the membrane will be fluid and receptive to positive nerve functions.
Children and Fatty Acids
Researchers have been able to connect the deficiency of fatty acids with behavioral problems during childhood. Particularly in children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
Who doesn't want a well behaved child that is bright and well adjusted? Today's rushed life and unhealthy meals may be playing a more negative role in meeting this goal than one might consider. The fact is that unhealthy fats in processed and prepackaged foods create a stiff and rigid cell. Furthermore, these cells are then challenged at participating in effective nerve function in the brain. Consider the various functions of the brain. This includes mood, clarity and awareness. Now consider how these functions might affect behavior and academic development.
Not all children may be deficient in Omega-3. A parent should assess the nutritional intake of their children and possibly seek the advice of a nutritionist. A balanced and healthy diet can greatly improve ones behavior and clarity.
Parents of children with behavioral and focus issues may want to consider adopting an Omega-3 rich diet.
- DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) is essential for the development of the brain in infants and normal brain function in adults.
- ALA (alpha linolenic acid) is essential in producing energy and is also an antioxidant.
Flax and Cancer
Recent studies of flaxseed are showing positive results against various forms of cancers. Cancers that have already been identified in various flaxseed studies include breast cancer, prostate cancer and colon cancer.
The three components of flaxseed showing positive effects are:
- Omega-3 fatty acids
Results show flaxseed terminated and inhibited tumor growth in animal studies. Also, the consumption of lignans by adolescents may inhibit breast cancer risk through adulthood.
Flax and Cardiovascular Disease
There have been positive research studies on the cardiovascular benefits of omega-3 fatty acids. Flaxseed in particular has been found to reduce blood pressure. Studies suggest this may be due to the combination of omega-3 fatty acids and amino acids. Both of these acids are found in flaxseed.
Additional benefits include:
- Prevention of the hardening of arteries (arteriosclerosis)
- Lignans in flaxseed reduce plaque build-up
- May improves irregular heart beat (initial studies show promising results)
- Reduction of bad cholesterol (LDL)
Flax and Diabetes
Research studies suggest the daily intake of the lignans in flaxseed may slightly improve blood sugar in adults with type 2 diabetes. Additional research is pending.
References and Links
Health effects with consumption of the flax lignan: October 2009, British Journal of Nutrition
reducing lipid and glucose concentrations, lowering blood pressure, and decreasing oxidative stress and inflammation
- Flax lignans may also reduce cancer risk by preventing pre-cancerous cellular changes and by redu- cing angiogenesis and metastasis
Polyunsaturated fatty acids, cognition and literacy in children with ADHD with and without learning difficulties: August 2011, Journal of Child Health Care
- Supplementation with flax oil and vitamin C improves the outcome of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.
Questions & Answers
© 2012 Marisa Hammond Olivares