Which is better?
Fish oil is better. Much better.
Flaxseed oil is right for you only if…
- You are a vegetarian
- You are vegan
- You are allergic to fish
Otherwise, there is no health advantage to taking flaxseed oil.
Flaxseed oil is popular because it is cheap, comes from a plant and has a lot of Omega-3. It contains an Omega-3 called alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). Many plants and nuts including walnuts and hempseed also contain ALA.
Omega-3 from Flax is not the same as the Omega-3 from fish.
The problem with Flaxseed oil
Yes, there is Omega-3 in Flaxseed oil. But the human body cannot efficiently use the kind of Omega-3 found in Flax (ALA).
EPA and DHA are the Omega-3 found in fish and fish oil supplements. This is what your body really needs. Your body easily uses the Omega-3 from fish oil.
With Flax, your body has to convert ALA to usable EPA before it can be used. But this conversion is difficult, slow, incomplete and complicated.
Flaxseed Oil vs Fish Oil – the DHA problem
Flaxseed oil cannot be converted to DHA at all. DHA from fish oil is crucial for brain and eye health.
Teenage girls can convert Flax ALA to usable Omega-3 the best. As women get older, their bodies become unable to use flaxseed oil. Boys and men’s bodies simply cannot use Flaxseed oil.
If you are pregnant, your baby NEEDS DHA to develop healthy brain and eyes. Flaxseed oil will not give you enough DHA during pregnancy. Please, please switch to a high-DHA formula!
If you are older than 30, then only about 5 – 10% of the Flaxseed oil is converted to usable Omega-3. Many scientists have independently come to this verdict.
This means you have to take a dozen or more flaxseed oil pills to equal the benefit of one ultra-concentrated fish oil pill.
Flaxseed oil vs Fish Oil
Flaxseed oil is not completely useless. If you take daily handfuls, may be 6 Flax pills in the morning and 6 at night, you will feel the same benefits as one fish oil pill.
Is it worth it? Only if you are a strict vegetarian.
How eating cookies and chips makes flaxseed oil useless
Most people cannot benefit from Flax oil:
- Trans-fats found in chips, cookies, cakes, margarine, and most processed foods will stop your body from converting the ALA in flax to usable EPA.
- Eating too much Omega-6 from corn oil can also put the brakes on this conversion. Most Americans eat about 20 times too much Omega-6.
- Eating sugary candy or drinking alcohol can prevent your body from using flaxseed oil.
- Same thing happens with deficiencies in B-vitamins, magnesium or zinc. 6 out of 10 Americans are deficient magnesium.
- If you are diabetic, have high blood pressure or are overweight, then your body cannot use flaxseed oil.
- If you are male or over the age of 30, then your body cannot use flaxseed oil well.
The list above covers just about all of us.
Why do all these things affect the benefits of flaxseed oil?
Well, because it takes up to 7 complex enzymatic steps to convert ALA into usable EPA and DHA. Why force your body to do all that if fish oil supplements already provide a usable Omega-3?
Unless you are a vegan, there is no reason to take flaxseed oil for Omega-3.
However, we love whole flax seeds. They are super healthy. They taste nutty and are perfect for sprinkling into salads and cereals.
You are much better off taking a ultra-concentrated fish oil supplement.
‘Pharmaceutical grade or ultra-concentrated’ means it is highly purified and has more than 85% usable forms of Omega-3 from fish. This means you feel benefits with fewer pills. Regular store brand fish oils have only about 20 to 30% Omega-3.
What Scientists and Doctors have to say about Flaxseed Oil vs Fish Oil
What Scientists and Doctors have to say about
|Columbia University Department of Pediatrics: “ALA has no or only weak beneficial effects on diminishing the risk of cardiovascular disease.”
British Journal Atherosclerosis: “Fish oil produced predictable changes in cardiovascular risk, but were not reproduced with ALA from Flaxseed oil.” – Volume 181, Issue 1, July 2005, Pages 115-124
Columbia University Department of Pediatrics: “(ALA), is generally far less effective at inducing biological effects, in part because of its inefficient conversion to EPA and DHA in humans. Thus, maximal effects of Omega-3 depend on the delivery of EPA and DHA rather than of ALA.”
Tufts-New England Medical Center: “Evidence suggests that increased consumption of Omega-3 from fish or fish-oil supplements, but not of alpha-linolenic acid (flax), reduces the rates of all-cause mortality, cardiac and sudden death, and possibly stroke.”
Tufts-New England Medical Center: “Omega-3 Fatty acids from fish or fish-oil supplements, but not -linolenic acid, benefit cardiovascular disease.”
Cornell University: “Studies generally agree that whole body conversion of ALA (Flax) to DHA is below 5% in humans.”- Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care. 2002 Mar; 5(2): 127-32.
Hoffmann-Roche: “Conversion is approximately 6% for EPA and 3.8% for DHA. With a diet rich in Omega-6, conversion is reduced further by 40 to 50%.” – Int J Vitam Nutr Res. 1998; 68(3): 159-73.
University of Guelph: “Thirty adults with ADHD were given 12 weeks of supplementation with olive oil, flax oil or fish oil. The data suggest that in order to increase levels of EPA and DHA in adults with ADHD high dose fish oil may be preferable to high dose flax oil.” – Reprod Nutr Dev. 2005 Sep-Oct; 45(5): 549-58.