What You Need to Know: Increasing the amount of omega-3s in your diet, whether from fish or flax, will likely decrease your risk of getting heart disease.
Background: A substantial amount of evidence exists supporting the heart-health benefits of eicosapentaenoic acid and docosahexaenoic acid (EPA and DHA), marine-derived omega-3 fatty acids. However, much less evidence exists to demonstrate the positive effects of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), a plant-based omega-3 fatty acid.
- EPA and DHA can be found in seafood and fish oil, and are often consumed in the form of dietary supplements. ALA is found in flaxseed and its oil, vegetable oils, and some nuts, and is now available in supplement form. Other sources of ALA, EPA and DHA are fortified foods such as orange juice, eggs, peanut butter, margarine and bread, among others. While there are many other omega-3 fortified foods in the marketplace, most are relatively low in omega-3 fatty acids.
- Omega-3 fatty acids are considered essential for human health, but the body does not produce them — therefore they must be consumed in order to maintain appropriate levels.
The Study: In reviewing existing literature on the subject, the researchers conclude that ALA is likely just as effective in preventing cardiovascular disease as EPA and DHA.
My Take: The current evidence suggests that ALA decreases cardiovascular risk. You consider increasing the amount of ALA you consume. Still, we need prospective, randomized trials to determine the optimal amount.
The small print: The material presented herein is informational only, and is not designed to provide specific guidance for an individual. Please check with a valued health care provider with any questions or concerns. As for me, I am a Harvard- , Yale- and UPenn-educated radiation oncologist, and I practice in the Seattle, WA (USA) area. I feel genuinely privileged to be able to share with you. If you enjoyed today’s offering, please consider clicking the follow button at the bottom of this page.
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Reference: J. A. Fleming, P. M. Kris-Etherton. The Evidence for -Linolenic Acid and Cardiovascular Disease Benefits: Comparisons with Eicosapentaenoic Acid and Docosahexaenoic Acid. Advances in Nutrition: An International Review Journal, 2014; 5 (6): 863S DOI: 10.3945/an.114.005850