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The Many Benefits of Omega-3’s

In a recent interview with Katherine Tallmadge, M.A., R.D., author of Diet Simple (Lifeline Press, 2002) and an American Dietetic Association spokeswoman, she was asked, “So many people I know are taking flax supplements. What are they, and are they worthwhile?”

Ms. Tallmadge explains:

Flax is a seed that contains alpha-linolenic acid, an omega-3 fatty acid. Omega-3’s have been shown to reduce heart disease risk and also may help relieve depression and inflammatory disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis. In addition, flaxseed contains more plant lignans (a phytoestrogen and a fiber) than any other seed, and lignans may protect against breast, prostate, ovarian, uterine and colon cancer, diabetes and heart disease. The National Academy of Sciences recommends that women get 1.1 grams of the omega-3 alpha-linolenic acid daily.

The omega-3’s with health benefits are DHA and EPA (both abundant in fish oils), and since only a portion of the alpha-linolenic acid in flax is converted in the body to these forms, flax is less potent than fish oil. Nonetheless, “It’s sensible to include sources of both fish oils and plant omega-3’s, such as flax, in our diet,” says Walter Willett M.D., chair of the nutrition department at the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston.