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Is flax seed oil good?

post #1 of 11
Thread Starter 
I guess I'm confused. I used to give a straight Omega 3 oil from our dr. but when I ran out I went to the health store and bought some expensive flax seed oil boasting high levels of O 3, 6 and 9. But, I've read a couple of times since in Dr. Mercola's newsletter that we have too much Omega 6 in our diet and it throws the O 3 levels out of whack. Make sense? Basically, it sounds like "just take Omega 3 supplements."

So, now I'm wondering...


BTW: Ds just takes it by the spoon.
post #2 of 11
That's partially true. It takes the correct ratio of Omega 3 and Omega 6 to make DHA, which is what we're going for here. DHA is found in eggs and fish and microalgae. Vegans do not usually get enough Omega 3 in their diet, but they DO get enough Omega 6.

So, vegans use flax because it's high in Omega 3. But, if you're getting too much Omega 6, you won't make DHA (as I understand it). Still, I'd rather have Omega 3 in my body than not have it in my body, even if the ratio isn't quite right. I mean, what am I supposed to do? Measure my Omega 6 intake? I don't think so.

Now, there are new vegan DHA capsules on the market, which would make flax oil not as important (but still a good addition to food).

So, if the reason you're taking flax is to create DHA, maybe go right for the DHA. You can open up the capsules for your small children who can't swallow pills and put it into their food. It's a tiny tiny amount and I doubt they would notice.

For more information on flax, see http://www.vegfamily.com/vegan-children/flax.htm
post #3 of 11
It's all very confusing. Omega 3 is good, but according to Dr. Mercola, the source can be less than ideal. He seems to think fish oil (not to be confused with cod liver oil) is the best source. Omega 6 should be limited (if you're not vegan, than chances are you're getting too much) because most meat sources are way out of balance. My naturopath suggested flax oil and cod liver oil supplementation so that is what we're doing. We don't eat much meat, but from what I understand, it's more about increasing the Omega 3 intake in general. Apparently it's good for what ails you...
post #4 of 11
Thread Starter 
Thanks! It is pretty confusing.

I guess my question comes up, too, b/c our dr. sells a strictly Omega 3 oil and I'm wondering if that's what we should use instead of Flax Seed. But, I've never heard of this topic outside of Dr. Mercola.

post #5 of 11
It's a very hot topic in the vegan community since we can't take fish oil or cod liver oil.

Balancing omega 3 and 6 is tough as a vegan. That's why I'm glad someone finally made a DHA capsule. Takes the guesswork out.
post #6 of 11
Did you know the body can only convert omega3's into DHA's in the presense
of saturated fat? Flax is very prone to rancidity too. And the presense of trans fatty acids which anyone who is consuming any products made with canola oil is doing (canola oil is raised to a very high temp during the deoderizing process which in turn creates trans fatty acids) version process as well.
cancels out any benefits the flax oil may have because it disrupts the conversion process.
I have also seen many people react to flax oil in a negative way and once they stopped their skin cleared up etc.. This is probably due to the rancidity factor.
If I needed to rely on a DHA supplement I would go for the preformed DHA's and EPA's in fish oil to derive maximum benefits.
post #7 of 11
Sorry my dd was pushing computer buttons and messed up my post.
Here's an article by my dh which explains it in better terms

I've been reading lots of material about flax seed and flax oil lately. It is starting to get as much attention in the field of natural foods as soy. What is your take on it?

Yes, like soy, flax is gaining ground as the next "great thing" you can do for your health. And, like soy much of the scientific research on flax and flax oil comes from similar sources, large "agenda driven" corporations intent on saturating the market place. Much of the research is focused on the high amounts of omega 3 fatty acids found in the oil extracted from the flax (linseed) seed. And, like everything else, there are two sides to the story. Some experienced health practitioners believe flax and flax oil to be the
ultimate panacea for many problems, whereas others feel the tiny seed is simply another "band aid" approach to health and that it would be smart to seek more reliable sources of omega 3s that have been used more extensively throughout the world for thousands of years.

Speaking of thousands of years, lets go back a bit and consider some history on flax. It is not unusual to find statements from researchers or lay people touting the benefits of flax and flax oil.

"Flax has been used for five thousand years in Egypt, Mesopotamia and numerous other places throughout the world."

"Flax was once a staple food of the Roman Empire."

These and many other statements along with the latest "scientific research" is enough to convince most people that we are indeed missing out on something if we are not consuming flax in some form or another.

While it is true that flax has been around for thousands of years and was used extensively throughout the world in textile manufacturing, it was not a staple food of any culture at any time. As a food, flax may have been used in times of famine, as is the case in Ethiopia and a few other places of the world during drought situations when peoples grain crops were compromised. More recently, in the last few hundred years or so, ground flax, boiled in water, was used as both an internal remedy for colds, coughs and urinary irritation, as well as a medicinal poultice applied externally for boils and abcesses. In "Food in Antiquity", a survey of the diet of early peoples by Brothwell and Brothwell, it states

"...in Mesopotamia and Egypt, though it may have been more valued as a textile material than for its oil potential. In Europe, however, the picture is different. Flax was grown in Neolithic Spain, Holland and England, and the Swiss prehistoric lake dwellings have yielded seeds from the beginning of the third millennium BC. A sort of linseed cake was found at Robenhousen..."

This "sort of linseed cake" does not necessarily mean it was used as a food. More than likely the compressing of seeds into a rounded shape was a way of preparing the seeds for grinding by hand with a rock to extract the oil which could then be used to cure wood, leather or rope. Eating whole flax seed pressed into a patty of some sort would cause serious digestive distress and is not something any intelligent prehistoric human being would do more than once, if that.

Carbonized flax together with cameline seed have been found at a Roman Iron Age site in Denmark. Both of these seeds yield a high oil content and it seems as if they were grown together for this purpose. At the same site in Denmark was found what resembled a cake of poppy seeds, also suspected to be another source of oil. The same book also states: "None of these oil/producing plants can be said to have had any great significance as food but in the case of the olive..." If these seeds were grown for their oil it is highly unlikely the oil was used internally, both types being of a highly unstable nature and not suitable for human consumption by crude methods of extraction.

A quick read of the can of linseed oil found in your local hardware store describes the the way linseed oil (flax) heats as it dries. This is in reference to applying the oil to wood in order to preserve the wood. The can also says it contains 100% linseed oil and "Danger, harmful if swallowed". Solvent extraction for commercial linseed oil removes much of the antioxidants needed to stabilize the polyunsaturated fatty acids. When these fatty acids are not protected they produce gummy residues called polymers. Modern "food grade" flax oil is now said to be "cold pressed", a term that, according to most experts in oil research, simply does not exist since some heat is generated through the grinding of the seeds, especially hard seeds the likes of flax. Any heating of this unstable plant oil causes oxidation which leads to rancidity and high free radical production when consumed.

While the majority of research on flax oil appears to be positive in nature, there are some studies that do not look as promising. Through his research at the University of Virginia Medical School in Charlottesville, Dr. Charles Myers found that flax seed oil increased the growth of prostate cancer cells
by 300% and proclaimed flax oil to be the most powerful stimulant they know for prostate cancer cells. Another study from Denmark at the Clinical Chemistry Department of Aalborg Hospital compared the effects of cod liver oil and flax seed oil on the EPA content of blood fats. After one week the cod liver oil showed a tenfold increase in the EPA content and the flax oil showed only insignificant increases. The lignans found in flax oil are another potential concern for many people, these steroid like compounds may not be as healthy as first thought, especially at the levels found in both flax and soy.

Then there are the anti nutrients linatine and cyanogenic glycosides. Linatine is a vitamin B 6 antagonist. Flax also includes a cyanide containing glucoside called linamarin. This substance releases hydrogen cyanide under moist and acidic conditions. Normally, when processed with chemical solvents
and high temperatures the enzyme linase is destroyed so it is not a problem, but this is not the case with cold/expeller pressed flax oil, or in the simple grinding of the seed. This same toxic substance can be found in lima beans and the cassava plant, both used as foods among indigenous peoples. However, both of these foods are processed by soaking and cooking before being consumed - not the case with flax seed or flax oil.

Omega 3 fatty acid (alpha linolenic acid) is an essential fatty acid that cannot be made by the body and therefore must be provided by diet. These fatty acids are precursors to EPA and DHA, both supportive of the hormone-like substances known as, prostaglandins, and are vital to the regulation of metabolism. Refining and hydrogenation destroys the vital omega 3s in oils leaving our modern day consumers with high omega 6 consumption and little of the omega 3s, so important to biological functions.

Traditional foods containing omega 3 fatty acids include many dark leafy greens, freshwater micro algae, sardines, anchovies, walnuts, butter, wild salmon, free-range chicken eggs, pasture-raised beef and numerous other natural, unprocessed foods. Flax oil and hemp oil contain approximately 60% omega 3s. Sardine oil and anchovy oil contain about half as much, but traditional peoples ate the whole fish, not just the oil. All of the other foods mentioned have low percentages of omega 3s and it is the combination of other ingredients in these nutrient-dense foods that once supplied us with balanced nutrition. That no natural food source contains the high levels of omega 3s found in flax is good reason to question the validity of it. Western nutrition's fostering of the "more is better" theory has done little to improve the overall health of the people.

Who eats flax seed and flax oil? While the food industry is poised to position flax where soy now rules as king, both the seed and oil are still mostly consumed by "naturalists". Among natural food consumers, flax oil is the new kid on the block, but flax seed has been around for at least forty years, albeit in small alternative lifestyle groups. In America, flax seed was, and still is, primarily used as a laxative by those suffering with chronic constipation. Most of the people that use flax grind the seed and mix it with water or their favorite beverage for the sole purpose of relieving constipation, and for the most part, it works. However, in my experience with clients using flax seed for this problem, I have found that 10 and even 20 years later, this "laxative" has done little more than relieve the symptoms of constipation, yet increase digestive distress and create a dependency on flax seed.

Flax oil, also consumed primarily by the health conscious public is used for constipation as well, yet the appeal of high omega 3s, lignans and a few other isolated components, are what all the hype is about. Many consumers of flax oil have bought the low fat propaganda that permeates our society and are on low fat, especially low saturated fat, diets. This includes vegans, vegetarians and other trend dieters. These diets do have their strong points but they are not in the area of fats. The fats that are used in these diets are mostly vegetable oils the likes of canola, soy and safflower along with other partially hydrogenated vegetable oils high in omega 6 fatty acids as well as trans fats. These fats can lower the ability to convert omega 3s to EPA and DHA. Also, research has shown saturated fat to be a vital component to the conversion of omega 3 fatty acids and because of the propaganda campaign against them saturated fats are still considered unacceptable in most of these dietary programs. The best sources of omega 3s are simply the original sources used for millennia.

Of all the great civilizations of antiquity that reaped the many benefits of the flax plant, a plant of such importance that it helped to define cultures the world over with style through clothing and art (paint and ink)...why did they not also consider it a daily food if it was so "good" for them?

Dear Steve: What about the calcium issue? If I am eating a healthy diet do I need to take extra calcium supplements or drink more milk to avoid bone problems? - Dazed and Confused.

Dear Dazed,

Calcium, like Vitamin C, omega 3 fatty acids, B6 and other isolated nutrients only become issues of concern when denatured foods are consumed in quantities that exceed wholesome natural foods, and when there is an imbalance among the basic macro nutrients of carbohydrates, fats and proteins in one's diet. When we consume large quantities of denatured foods (foods that are highly refined, processed and laden with preservatives) we inevitably develop nutritional deficiencies. These nutritionally empty foods create biological deficiencies, nutritional voids, that must be filled in order to regain any semblance of nutritional balance.

Western science's answer to filling these nutritional voids is to saturate them with isolated nutrients including vitamins, phytonutrients...and sometimes foods. An increase in milk, a food commonly recognized and accepted as a source of calcium by most people, is often suggested by nutritionists for combating the calcium deficiency problem. Calcium and other nutritional deficiencies are also common among people who consume "natural" fad diets where there may be inadequate or excessive amounts of fats, protein or carbohydrate. Taking more calcium supplements or drinking more milk without addressing the fundamental cause of the problem cannot solve the problem without creating more problems. The reason for this is, the more calcium supplements one takes the more magnesium is needed to balance the calcium. And this doesn't balance the calcium, because fats also play a major role in the absorption of calcium, too. So a healthy source of fats needs to be considered, and fats are dependent on protein, carbohydrates and other nutrients to be adequately absorbed and assimilated. So begins a vicious cycle of left brained, linear thinking that ultimately leads to confusion and an unresolved problem.

Responding to the calcium requirements from the Energetics perspective, we begin with the first governing law of Energetics, Quality and Quantity. Rather than try to first fill the deficiency void we would first look at what is causing the void. Having established that denatured foods are devoid of vital minerals, except for the synthetic ones added to enhance the products, and that these foods also have been shown to deplete minerals from the body, we then suggest better quality foods over all. From here we then establish a sound dietary base, free from extremists views and grounded in common sense, history and tradition.

The next thing to consider is the quality of the varied sources of calcium available to us. Even though the food most often suggested by the "experts" as a calcium source is milk, in its modern pasteurized, homogenized form, milk is devoid of enzymes and other vital substances that render it digestible. Few people have access to raw milk and even if they did have access to it a very large percentage of people are lactose intolerant. Another consideration with milk is the fact that cow's milk contains approximately 80% casein and 20% whey, whereas human breast milk contains approximately 20% casein and 80% whey. Casein is a bonding agent often used to make glue and other adhesives. With these reversed proportions of whey and casein is should be cause for wonder how "bonded" we might want to be to the source of the milk. Cow's milk is also very acidic, with an average PH of 6.5. There are many other issues concerning milk to consider, but the most important is that historically cow's milk was rarely used as beverage. Rather, among agricultural peoples milk was naturally processed and cultured to make suitable foods for human consumption. These include butter, cheese, yogurt and more. Even these foods should be consumed with appropriate accompaniments to insure proper digestion and assimilation. Cheese has its accompaniments in wine, capers, apple or some other fruit, and you know about bread and butter. Meeting nutritional needs is a complementary process, a process that was worked out thousands of years ago through ancient wisdom.

While quality dairy products have numerous redeeming qualities, on a qualitative scale milk ranks low as a source of daily calcium. Other quality sources of calcium are nuts, seeds, dark leafy green vegetables, and some varieties of marine algae. The difference between these whole foods and a calcium supplement is the synergy of all the other healthy ingredients involved when these foods are properly prepared. The combination of healthy fats, proteins and carbohydrates found in seeds and nuts make them a high quality choice for fulfilling calcium needs, a source that has been used for thousands of years as good nutrition. Kale, collard greens, mustard greens, dandelion greens and other dark green vegetables are great sources of calcium and other vital nutrients. And the bioavailability of the calcium in these plants is enhanced when they are braised, sautéed, or stir fried with coconut, palm, olive oil or butter. These two sources of calcium alone, when consumed on a regular basis, could begin to solve the calcium issue and other nutritional deficiencies as well.
post #8 of 11
Thread Starter 
Thank you SO much!

Interesting food for thought. hehe

--I'd never realized vegans couldn't have cod liver or fish oil. That really does complicate matters. :

T Manymany years ago as kids, we used to feed our show horses flax seeds to help them have nice shiny coats! I laugh at this b/c I see so many things we used to use on the "farm" are now moving into our house. Bag balm anyone?
post #9 of 11
post #10 of 11
I used to (years ago...) use bag balm on my feet at night to stop them from cracking!!
post #11 of 11

Elanie, Thank you so much!

What a GREAT article. : )
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