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Flax seed Oil Health Benefits: Flaxseed Or Flax Oil

Updated on July 31, 2012

There are very few food sources on earth that are rich in Omega 3. As a result of the industrial revolution and the processing of food to allow national and global transportation, packaging and stability, Omega-3 no longer exists in most foods today. This has not always been the case. Throughout human history mankind has eaten a closely proportioned ratio(1/1) of Omega-6 to Omega-3 fatty acids. There are 49 known essential nutrients. The omegas 6 and 3 are two of them. These 2 nutrients cannot be synthesized by the body, but must be received from foods or dietary supplements.

The near even proportion between omega 6 and 3 are essential in order to regulate thousands of metabolic functions through the prostagladin pathways. This delicate balance between the two is interconnected with nearly every biological function of the body. Omega-3's are deeply involved in harmone modulation, immune response, behavior, IQ, inflammation, cardiovascular health and allergic reactivity.Over the last 50 to 100 years there has been a rapid change in the type of fats being eaten. This has knocked the near even omega 6 to 3 proportions way out of balance, which is having detrimental health effects.

Western Degenerative Diseases Have Increased, as Omega-3 has Decreased

The connection to over 50 diseases is identified as a deficiency in Omega-3. Western degenerative diseases have risen in a near perfect linear fashion with the elimination of omega-3. It should come as no surprise that consuming omega-3 greatly improves all of the 50 diseases and illnesses. Japanese researchers have found that the leading cause of degenerative disease is due to the drastic reduction in Omega-3 in relation to an increased consumtion of Omega-6. Their studies involved the Japanese dietary transition to a western diet and the rise of degerative disease that took place among them in the last 50 years.

Omega-3 - The Endangered Nutrient

One hundred years ago, the industrial revolution brought the screw-nut expeller press for the processing of vegetable/seed oils. The processing of corn, sunflower, safflower and peanut oil created a super concentrated form of Omega-6 while destroying what little Omega-3 existed, if any.

Meanwhile, in farming, all types of animals were fed a diet loaded with omega-6, yet completely devoid of Omega-3. Even fish, which are known for their Omega-3 content have been effected. Chances are the fish you eat were farm raised and did not eat phytoplankton which creates Omega-3.

It didn't take refined food manufacturers long to figure out that Omega-3 significantly reduces the shelf life of their products. Dietary sources are purposely avoided in the production of processed foods.

Things became even worse with the invention of hydrogenation. A process that turns liquid polyunsaturated fats into semi-solid saturated fat known as trans fatty acids. During this process, any Omega-3 that exists is destroyed.

Harvard Medical School published a study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition exposing the ingestion of trans fatty acids as the cause of 30,000 premature deaths annually. Hydrogenation adds to shelf live and creates a texture that consumers enjoy. As a result it is nearly impossible to find processed foods that do not contain partially hydrogenated oils.

The combination of these factors have resulted in the near extinction of Omega-3. With the exception of trace amounts found in greens, sea vegetables and some nuts and seeds, the only sources are deep water ocean fish and flax seed oil.

Omega 6 to 3 Imbalance causing inflammation

Omega 6 is seen by many as the bad omego oil because it promotes inflammation in the body. Omega 3 is seen as the good oil because it is an anti-inflammatory. The truth is we need both oils in balance for optimum human health. Too much Omega-6 in the body can create situations that promote chronic inflammation, cancer, heart disease, stroke, diabetes and arthritus.

The function of inflammation created by Omega-6 is to respond to injury and microbial attack. But this function is carefully monitered by Omega-3. When there is a reduction in Omega-3, inflammation gets out of control and the damage of tissue and organs occurs. Over time this creates chronic inflammation, which leads to disease, which leads to more inflammation and a viscous cycle begins.

A Return to Balance

Currently the ratio of Omega-6 to 3 in the american diet ranges from 10/1 to 20/1. The first practical step in a return to balance is to greatly reduce foods high in Omega-6 such as sunflower, safflower, peanut and corns oils. Next, avoid consumption of processed foods which are high in omega-6.

The best way to bring balance is to take supplements that only contain Omega 3's. Consuming these types of products will do little in bringing the body back into balance. The two best choices are fish oil and flax seed oil. It is rare to find a fish oil supplement that contains more than 500 mg of Omega-3. Flax seed oil is the world's most abundant source of Omega-3 oil. Two tablespoons provides 15,400 mg which will do much to negate the 15,000 mg of Omega-6 that most people consume each day.

The many changes in diet in the last 100 years have drastically increased the consumption of Omega-6 and decreased the consumption of Omega-3. This is a primary, if not the leading cause of degenerative disease in the western world. Making conscience dietary decisions to reduce the amount of Omega-6 and increase Omega-3 in order to bring the body back in to balance is a major step in brining your body back to optimum health.


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    • Pamela Kinnaird W profile image

      Pamela Kinnaird W 

      6 years ago from Maui and Arizona

      This is the best short article on this subject I have read. You've laid it out so well. I've been trying to find flaxseed oil for a few months now and I think I've hunted some down at the local naturopath's office. I'll find out soon.

      It's important, too, that people know that in the U.S. if they want good Omega 3 capsules from fish oil, the bottle needs to say 'Pharmaceutical Grade.'

      The person above, ausie lass, mentioning Budwig is right on target. Budwig did much to bring forth and prove the healthful benefits of flax seed oil. I think she was nominated seven times for a Pulitzer, but the billion dollar cancer industry who works hard to suppress all good information about holistic treatment of cancer -- managed to have key people stand in the way. Budwig's work has continued to help people.

    • profile image

      ausie lass 

      6 years ago

      Have you read the works of Johanna Budwig? She says that flax seed oil is better than fish oil and that the oil needs to be combined with cottage cheese to make it water soluble and able to be used by the body. I mix 4 tablespoons of oil with about 125 grams of the cheese with my stick mixer to blend it. Then I spread it on bread or toast to eat it, top my vegies with it etc.I store it in a covered glass jar in the fridge. Great stuff and you get to love it. ausie lass

    • Victoria Lynn profile image

      Victoria Lynn 

      7 years ago from Arkansas, USA

      Very useful hub. Love articles on health and nutrition, although I don't always follow. I have some Omega 3 fish oil but am bad about routinely taking it. I'm going to follow you and read more of your health articles, and perhaps you'll inspire me. thanks!

    • Debra Bee profile image

      Debra Bee 

      7 years ago from Arizona, United States

      I have been taking Flax seed oil pills for a few months now and I have seen a difference in my skin, hair and nails. My hair and nails grows faster and strong and my skin is more supple. This was a very informative hub and I loved the debate between you and level1diet. Thanks for the great info.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      hello steve a question . Which is beter for the omega 3 oils or are both equally good the flax seeds or the oil.Children do not like the oil but the seeds can be sneaked into their foods


    • christryon profile image


      8 years ago

      Nice article on flaxseed oil and its benefits. I personally prefer ground flaxseed so I can have the fiber element in my diet.

    • profile image

      Jon Twork 

      8 years ago

      We use golden flax seed MEAL(we grind it almost daily) in many, many of our dietary dishes and especially in breads. We also use it in a daily smoothie which gives the smoothie a consistency of a malt or thick shake.

      Ground flax seed tastes pretty good on cereal in the morning and you can grind it in a small coffe grinder.

      Grinding up a batch every few days, keeps the oils from going rancid. I wouldn't think that RANCID oil would be very good for you.



    • profile image

      George Black 

      8 years ago

      Great hub. I also have a hub on flaxseed oil and I think your hub is really great.

      "rate up"!

    • TraveLapland profile image

      Work in Sweden 

      9 years ago from Murjek Sweden

      Hi Steve,

      Thanks for that - really. I had started taking flaxseed (linseed?) to keep my digestion going after having a few tough weeks last year. This works great and I put a teaspoon of whole seeds into a yogurt every other day. I will doing that much more often now! I have been told its good to drink lots of water when taking flax and that one must chew all the seeds to get the full benefit. Are these valid points?

      Best wishes

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      if you have a good diet and workout about 4 times a week and supplement with flax oil and fish oil everyday then your good. the high lignan content is great for fiber but high in phytoestrogen kinda like soy which i avoid, if you just put a tea spoon in a protein drink take at least EPA 410mg and DHA 274mg you have the best of both worlds dont beat yourself up over this,,this is what i do i'm 6'5" 228lbs i eat around 2500 cals a day of whole foods and supplement fish/flax oil, whey protein isolate (wpi) creatine (cuz i pump alot of iron) a potent multi vitamin every morning and post workout dextrose for delivery of isolate and creatine..dont smoke drink in moderation and get at least 7 hrs of uninterrupted sleep a night and live your life and have fun

    • stevemark122000 profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from Southern California

      Thanks for your comment vitamin249!

      Alpha linolenic acid is converted by the body into DHA and EPA.

      IT's true that men generally have a harder time making the conversion than woman.

    • vitaman249 profile image


      9 years ago from Saudi Arabia

      Please! correct me if I am wrong

      Flax seed oil contains Alpha linolenic acid(ALA) which converts in to the human body to OMEG-3. Female body is more effective to ALA to Omega 3 than male.

      I have read that facts in a news paper.

      Do you agree?

    • lefseriver profile image

      David Walli 

      9 years ago from Northern Minnesota

      Thanks for the hub. Dr. Mark Hyman, author of "The Ultramind Solution" says one way to consume fish oil pills without the 'fishy burp' is to freeze them first. They will dissolve lower in the GI tract. I learned a lot from your hub. Thanks.

    • profile image


      9 years ago


      Thank you very much for sharing all this great information. Unfortunately because this is all so new to me, I have now gone on "information overload"

      I recently was diagnosed with Hypertension, and was told I am borderline on having to take Medications for both Diabetes and high cholesterol. My Doctor has started me on Meds for my blood pressure, but has given me 3 months to allow a drastic diet change and exercise program, to see if I can lower the numbers to healthier levels without medication. Hence my dilema.

      This is what has been reccomended by friends.

      Mega Red which is supposed to be 3x better than fish oil. and also, Flaxseed oil pills. in reading the information on the bottles they both have Omega 3, so now I'm wondering if I might be getting too much.

      Also, is there anything out there that helps lower blood sugars?

      Any information is greatly appreciated. On a positive note, since January 1, I have now lost 21 pounds, and my Blood Pressure has been averaging 130/80's.


      in reading the nutritional content, they both contain Omega 3 oils.

    • Kulsum Mehmood profile image

      Dr Kulsum Mehmood 

      9 years ago from Nagpur, India

      Very informative hub stevemark. Thank you for sharing.

    • stevemark122000 profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from Southern California

      It is really difficult to balance the high intake of omega 6 in the western diet without flax seed oil. Omega 3 in eggs is a good source but will not give you the amount you need to balance omega 6.

      Cod Liver oil is good but check with your local health store rep. to learn about the unique health benefits of fish oil.

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      Good information, BUT can we get enough Omega 3 from the new eggs found in the supermarkets that say the eggs have Omega 3, 6, 9?

      Also, I take one cod liver oil pill a day. Is cod liver oil considered "fish oil" or does it have to be "salmon oil" or fish oil...

    • Debby Bruck profile image

      Debby Bruck 

      9 years ago

      Thanks for another data-rich hub. And Thanks to level1diet for additional input. I never take flaxseed oil, simply because it can go rancid quickly. However, I do grind and sprinkle the golden flaxseeds onto food. All the best, Debby [homeopath]

    • tinacarla profile image


      9 years ago from USA

      Yap! your right again! my hubby , two boys and I take flax oil! very good stuff!

    • stevemark122000 profile imageAUTHOR


      10 years ago from Southern California

      Thanks for your comment and testimony mmiller! You are one of many other good testimonies I have heard about the effectiveness of flax seed oil.

    • stevemark122000 profile imageAUTHOR


      10 years ago from Southern California

      I did read your hub level1diet, but I didn't see any proof that people as they get older in life no longer have the ability to convert omega 3 from flax seed so that it can be used by the body.

    • mmiller profile image


      10 years ago

      I'm a HUGE fan of flaxseed oil! I've done my research on it too and thought I would give it to my son who has nasty eczema. I read that it could help kids with this problem. Sure enough, my son's eczema cleared about in a couple of days and I was stunned because he had scratched himself raw until he bled. When I looked at it a couple of days after starting the flaxseed oil, it was as smooth as could be!

    • level1diet profile image


      10 years ago from Albuquerque, NM

      Hi Steve, thanks for your response. I'm sure you'll come around. Either way, the discussion is always fun.(grin)

      For a few hundred more citations, feel free to read through my 2 hubs documenting the way delta-6-desaturase works and the reasons that flax oil, which requires D6D functionality, cannot be converted into longer chain omega-3 EPA/DHA molecules efficiently in most adults due to a long list of operative factors. One hub is about why fish oil beats flaxseed oil, and the other is about why we need to be taking borage oil. The borage oil is heavily documented with footnotes and references that will help you understand the D6D functionality issue.

      The chemistry is fairly simple to understand, if hard to perform in the lab. When D6D is blocked or dysfunctional for any lifestyle or genetic reason, alpha linoleic acid 'short-chain omega-3s' (from flax or any source) cannot be 'digested' or elongated into 'long chain omega-3s' called EPA and DHA. D6D is a cog in this process, without which no conversion takes place.

      The evidence is conclusive that we need fish to do the work for us, or perhaps blue algae, which the fish eat... but that's another story (grin).

      But that doesn't mean we shouldn't take flaxseed oil -- for the lignans. Another good source of slightly different lignans is from sesame seed. Sesamin has been shown to be extremely helpful, even in small quantities.

    • stevemark122000 profile imageAUTHOR


      10 years ago from Southern California

      Thanks for your comment Aya Katz! Unfortunately, there are no foods available that have sufficient amounts of Omega 3 fatty acids. There has been many studies done with flax seed oil and it has been found to be the most abundant source of omega 3 fatty acids. According to scientific research there are no problems with the absorption of Omega 3 from flax seed oil and many qualified professionals will tell you this is your best source for omega 3. Most omega 3 supplements will provide you will approximately 15,000 mg of omega 3 per day which is how much you need to balance your omega 6 intake.

    • stevemark122000 profile imageAUTHOR


      10 years ago from Southern California

      Thanks for your comment level1diet. That is interesting that you would say that there is a problem with the absorttion of omega 3 from flax seed oil. I have never heard that before or ever seen any research supporting what your are saying. You quote one source of research only, but failed to mention what studies they have done, whether the studies were done on animals or humans, how many subject were involved and over what period of time. A single study is hardly conclusive.

    • level1diet profile image


      10 years ago from Albuquerque, NM

      Aya Katz, the amount of fish we would need to eat, even if we ate only the best kinds of oily fish like salmon, mackerel, sardines and anchovies, to balance our nutritional needs against the amount of omega-6 we eat is staggering.

      Up to 20 pounds of salmon, for example, to balance the nutritional needs of an average adult who suffers from chronic low level inflammation and metabolic diseases that are related to that inflammation.

      The only way to get enough omega-3 long chain fatty acids (EPA and DHA) is to take fish oil capsules or glug-down the foul tasting liquid.

    • Aya Katz profile image

      Aya Katz 

      10 years ago from The Ozarks

      Why take supplements when we could just get the nutrients we need from food?

      I tried supplementing my family's diet with flaxseed for a while, but I found that eating Macademia nuts is more tasty. They do contain the right kind of fatty acids, don't they?

    • level1diet profile image


      10 years ago from Albuquerque, NM

      Steve, we may have a bit of a difference of opinion here, relating to flax vs. fish oil. I wrote a popular essay on this a couple of years ago.

      Fish oil contains EPA and DHA already, without the necessity of functional processing and elongation of the alpha linoleic omega-3 acids by delta-6-desaturase required in the digestion of flaxseed oil and other plant based omega-3 fatty acids. This is a crucial advantage, since D6D is functionally deficient in most of us Americans by the time we are adults. 

      This dysfunctional D6D status may not be true for healthy atypical super-athletes, who also don't smoke and don't consume alcohol -- both of which would block the enzyme even in very active people.

      However most of us are NOT extremely active, are NOT eating a good diet low in omega-6, and many DO smoke or drink alcohol. Most of us don't convert linoleic acids into EPA/DHA well. If we are stressed due to daily life issues, things get even worse since D6D is blocked during stress episodes.

      So, if our inflammatory status is already high, recent research shows that D6D does not process the flaxseed linoleic acids into EPA and DHA. In fact only a few percent of the omega-3 from flaxseed oil gets converted into EPA, while an even smaller amount, only a small fraction of 1%, ends up as DHA for most people over the age of 18 or so.

      This is a tragic situation. That's why the NIH published a famous summary a year or so ago mentioning this problem with plant based omega-3 and suggested that the average American would need to consume about 3.5 grams of total EPA/DHA per day (about 12 1-gram fish oil capsules which usually contain 300mg/pill) to balance the omega-6 they were taking. That's on the average of course. They said some people who are eating a healthy diet with less omega-6 could get buy with fewer grams of fish oil, perhaps only 1 gram for the very best eating people. Interestingly, they carefully pointed out that the EPA/DHA would come from fish oil concentrates and fish, not plant oils due to the research I've referred to above.

      There is a simple test to determine if someone is LIKELY to be able to convert flaxseed oil into EPA/DHA omega-3 fatty acids. Have them take a HS-CRP blood test in the doctor's office. If their score is above the healthy 1-3 range, then they are suffering from chronic inflammation. This is likely due to a runaway chain reaction in the arachidonic acid inflammatory cascade that proceeds downstream from delta-6-desaturase being overwhelmed or blocked, among other factors.

      To engineer a rebalanced chemical equation, we need to supply the body with the products it could have produced IF THE D6D WAS WORKING.

      That can only be done by taking fish oil.

      Yes, it is less convenient, and worse tasting that flaxseed oil. We have to take more of it, and hide the taste by using enteric coated capsules. But, fish oil works, while flaxseed oil does not. Flaxseed oil ends up merely acting like other polyunsaturated oils in our system. Better than saturated fats from animals of course, but not a solution to inflammation. Our inflammation will go down, our triglycerides will go down, our insulin resistance improves and even our blood sugar will moderate after consistent use of fish oil.

      The huge agribusiness industry supports flaxseed oil. They are aggressive in promoting it, regardless of the science against its effectiveness.

      It's a cheap and sustainable source of omega-3 shorter chain fatty acids. Hopefully someday we will figure out how to enable most people to use them -- perhaps by combining them with some other natural agent -- to reduce inflammatory disease. That day has not yet come. Until then, or until we run of of fish, we will compelled to eat that bad tasting and expensive fish oil.

      Aside from inflammatory advantages pertaining to elongated omega-3 fats EPA and DHA, flaxseed oil does possess something that argues for taking it -- in ADDITION to fish oil... lignans!

      LIGNANS from flaxseed oil provide enormous benefits, even in the very small quantities found in flaxseed and its oils. I'll be writing a hub about taking flaxseed high-lignan oils soon. So I do recommend taking enough flaxseed paste or high-lignan oil to get about 5mg or so per day if at all possible, even though research demonstrates that the linoleic acid from flaxseed itself is insufficient to meet our omega-3 needs.

    • hot dorkage profile image

      hot dorkage 

      10 years ago from Oregon, USA

      Thanks for this hub, truly worth a stumble.

    • stevemark122000 profile imageAUTHOR


      10 years ago from Southern California

      Thanks for your comment byee. Definetely choose wild salmon for your omega-3. Farm raised salmon do not receive the food they need to produce omega-3 fatty acids.

      Salmon, and walnuts are very good sources of omega-3. Other good sources are scallops, cauliflower, cabbage, cloves and mustard seeds, halibut, shrimp, cod, tuna, soybeans, tofu, kale, collard greens, and Brussels sprouts.

    • byee profile image


      10 years ago

      I heard salmon is a good source of Omega 3. However, do you know if there is a difference between consuming farm-raised or wild salmon? What other foods are sources of Omega 3?

    • Mango23 profile image


      10 years ago from New Orleans

      Great info Steve. I use flaxseed everyday and am planning to write a hub about my experience with it too. Thanks for the confirmation of something mybody has felt and known for a long time.

    • mulder profile image


      10 years ago from Warnbro Western Australia

      Great hub Very true I just published a hub about omega 3

      We need to spread the word how important omega 3 are to our bodies .

    • Gawn Fishin' profile image

      Gawn Fishin' 

      10 years ago from Vancouver, BC

      Thank you Stevemark, I will read them both.

    • stevemark122000 profile imageAUTHOR


      10 years ago from Southern California

      Thanks for your comment Gawn Fishin.' I have done a hub about Joint Pain Relief where I discuss Glucosamine. You can check it out at

      For a good hub on Glucosamine and Chondroitin check out Marye Audet's hub Glucosamine Chondroitin: Does it Work?

    • Gawn Fishin' profile image

      Gawn Fishin' 

      10 years ago from Vancouver, BC

      I'm off to the health food store. Thank you for the heads up, I try to use natural methods to reduce cholesterol and joint pain. Have you done a hub about Glucosamine & Chondroitin?

    • jedgrey profile image


      10 years ago from Texas

      Amen Steve, well written, concise yet informative. Keep up the good work.

    • Karen Ellis profile image

      Karen Ellis 

      10 years ago from Central Oregon

      Oh thank goodness. I've been taking flax seed oil for years. I thought you were going to tell me something negitive about it. Thanks for the reassurance.

    • pjdscott profile image


      10 years ago from Durham, UK

      I always admire your health hubs and this is no exception. It is somewhat alarming that our race is gradually (rapidly) getting away from healthy and natural foods. Thanks for the warning...

    • stevemark122000 profile imageAUTHOR


      10 years ago from Southern California

      Thankyou everyone for your thoughtful comments.

    • SweetiePie profile image


      10 years ago from Southern California, USA

      Interesting hub and good suggestions on taking flax seed oil. Cooking with this oil is also another good way to incorporate flax seed into one's diet.

    • stephhicks68 profile image

      Stephanie Hicks 

      10 years ago from Bend, Oregon

      Great job on this hub! I have a friend about 10 years older than me who is fighting heart disease. He has been taking flax seed oil pills and adding it as a supplement to his food and is in GREAT health as of his last check up. I am going to forward your hub on to him and others.

    • ripplemaker profile image

      Michelle Simtoco 

      10 years ago from Cebu, Philippines

      My parents have been telling us to drink flax seed oil. Now I know why. :) Thanks for the informative hub. :)

    • Rob Jundt profile image

      Rob Jundt 

      10 years ago from Midwest USA

      Nice hub with excellent research. I never knew the correlation between farm-raised fish and the lack of Omega 3. Thanks.

    • lady luck profile image

      lady luck 

      10 years ago from Boston

      Damn I bought flaxseed oil pills and now I can't find them because I was like SCREW it these won't do anything for me... guess I better dig them out now!

      Great hub, I'm going to add this to my stumble favs.

    • seohowto profile image


      10 years ago from Bay Area, CA

      Nice done! I first learned about flax seed oil a couple of years ago and I was buying it from our local Wholefoods market. It is a really good source of Omega-3!

    • Doc Rich profile image

      Doc Rich 

      10 years ago

      I'm impressed by the data you've posted....enough to finally stop procrastinating and pick up some O-3. Very nicely done.


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