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Editor & Reporter
Hi, My name is Kevin (learn more about me here) and welcome to this site.
As Editor and Reporter for Healthy-Oil-Planet.com, I've researched the health benefits of natural oils and tried to present you the most accurate and current information for enhancing your health with these products.
Thank you for visiting and I hope you find this site helpful and informative.
Flaxseed Oil versus Fish Oil: Which is the best?
When I first started using healthy oils, I came across a puzzling dilemma:
Which is the better for you? Flax seed oil versus fish oil?
When you compare these two oils side by side you’ll find that they both provide an excellent source of omega 3 fatty acids.
Fish oils contain the omega 3 fatty acids, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).
Flax seed oil is one of the few plant-based sources of the omega 3 fatty acid, alpha linolenic acid (ALA).
However, as you’ll see below, there’s a big difference between men and women in how well their bodies utilize the flaxseed oil.
How Your Body Metabolizes Flax Seed Oil
When you eat flax seed oil, your body uses enzymes to convert the ALA into EPA and DHA. However, researchers discovered a difference between men and women in how much of the ALA is actually converted into EPA and DHA.
Scientists from England discovered that increasing your intake of alpha linolenic acid leads to an increase of only eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) in your body. This increase of EPA actually takes place over weeks and months of supplementation. So if you swallow a tablespoon of flaxseed oil (which contains alpha linolenic acid), your body doesn’t get the EPA immediately due to the slow conversion process.
Using radioactive substances, researchers were able to measure how much ALA is converted into EPA and DHA in the human body. Unfortunately, the results were less than stellar….They found that only 6 – 8% of ALA converts into EPA in adult men and the conversion of ALA to DHA was a mere 0.1%. When they looked at the women, researchers found women converted the ALA to DHA up to 9%, which was almost 90 times more efficiently than the men!
Studies show Women Bodies Metabolize Flaxseed Oil Better than Men
Scientists believe the estrogen in women allows their bodies to convert the ALA to DHA more effectively than men. The reason is due to the biological demand for DHA for the fetus during pregnancy and breast feeding.
Research shows there are many health benefits from fish oils during pregnancy including enhanced eye, hand and motor development, stronger immune system and better brain development for your baby.
Studies performed by other scientists have reached similar conclusions; the conversion of ALA into EPA is low and hampered even further if you eat a diet high in omega 6 fatty acids.
So What’s Better for You? Fish Oil or Flaxseed Oil?
When it comes to flax seed oil versus fish oil, the research shows:
- Fish oil is a natural source of both EPA and DHA
- Flaxseed oil only supplies ALA and your body must convert it into EPA and DHA
- Men can’t convert ALA into DHA very well (less than 0.1%)
- Men only convert a small amount of ALA to EPA (about 6 – 8%)
- Women’s bodies convert ALA to DHA almost 90 times more efficiently than men.
If you’re comparing flaxseed oil versus fish oil for health benefits, you should choose fish oil if you want to optimize your omega 3 fatty acid intake. Fish oils provide you an excellent source of both EPA and DHA. The health benefits of fish oils are numerous and proven in dozens of documented studies.
If you’re a man, you’re probably better off using fish oils so your body gets the higher amount of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), compared to using flaxseed oil. Women could use flaxseed oil as their bodies can convert the alpha linolenic acid more efficiently than men. You may also use krill oil, which is a great source of omega 3 fatty acids, phospholipids and antioxidants.
Of course, there are still many health benefits from flaxseed oil. Foods high in ALA (alpha linolenic acid) play an important part in a healthy diet. Nutritionists advise they should be consumed in a diet including cold-water fish or fish oil supplements. If you have an allergy to fish oils or fish, you can still use flax seed oil as a source of omega 3 fatty acids.
Research on flax seed oil versus fish oil shows your body can convert some of the ALA into EPA, and you will be getting some omega 3 fatty acids in your diet. Other alternative food sources of omega 3’s include walnuts, tofu, soybeans and certain vegetables, like winter squash.
Flaxseed Oil versus Fish Oil Research References:
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)? International Journal for Vitamin and Nutrition Research. 1998;68(3):159-73.
Long-chain n-3 PUFA: plant v. marine sources. Williams CM, Burdge G. Proceedings of the Nutrition Society. 2006 Feb;65(1):42-50