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Monday, December 18, 2006

Omega Oils - Flax vs Fish Oil

Despite diminshing fish stocks, the push is on to have us consume more and more fish oil. Apparently fish oil is superior to plant derived omega oils like flax seed and evening primrose oil. Is this true, or is it merely big budgets getting in the way of the facts? I am not convinced that one source is superior to the other from a health point of view, although I am tending towards being in favour of flax seed oils. What I am convinced about is that these oils, regardless of their source, are of undoubted benefit and the list of benefits grows by the day. Here are some basic facts about fish and flax oil ingredients:

  • Flax seed contains Omega-3, 6 & 9; fish oil only has secondary Omega-3
  • Flax Boost (A blend of flax seed, black currant and star flower) contains secondary Omega-3 EFA (Steriodonic Acid), as well as primary Omega-3 and Omega-6 EFAs. Taking these secondary EFAs means the body means your body does not have to perform the conversion from primary to secondary EFAs.
  • Fish oils are often recommended because they contain Omega-3 derivatives EPA and DHA, rather than the Omega-3 precursor Alpha Linoleic Acid (ALA) found in flax seed oil. The thinking is that if these derivatives are taken directly, the body does not have to make them from the precursor.
  • It is however beneficial to consume some ALA because it is thought to have some specific functions in the body.
So, if that has left you confused, don't worry. The guts of this is that it is a good idea to get your healthy nutritients from a variety of sources, rather than one alone. Your body will take care of the rest!

Having said this, flax seed has some emotional and convenience advantages (I am referring to Waihi Bush flax seed in particular) because:
  • It is organically grown and free of pesticides, heavy metals etc
  • It is from a sustainable source
  • It is a vegetarian source
  • Fish stocks need preserving - not further depletion
  • Toxic residues concentrate in fish stocks, although we are assured that fish oils are free of these
  • Flax seed oil is rich in natural vitamin E
  • Flax seed is pleasant tasting, so can be used as a butter substitute on bread, drizzled on salads, or simply taken straight from the bottle
  • Gram-for-gram flax seed oil is much, much cheaper


Anonymous said...

Flax seed oil is a very beneficial supplement, especially for vegetarians like myself. Try adding a serving to your daily protein shake or smoothie - you won't even taste it.

Gary Moller said...

Adam, I have taken to giving my 7yr old boy a spoonful of flaxseed oil in the am or I slip a little into his food when he's not looking. He does not really mind the taste. What is interesting is that he has just started reading one of his older sister's chapter books and has almost finished it. I would never have expected this of a little boy. what with all the modern distractions about. While it may be a long shot associating this with the Omega oil, it can't be doing any harm.

Anonymous said...

I purchased Barlean's new cinnamon & lemonade flavored flax oils.
All natural and taste awesome!!!!

Wayne said...

its proven to improve brain neuron development as well as speed up signalling between neurons, a friend of mine folows healthy eating practices such as yours Gary and his eight year old has the reading age of a fifteen year old, his ability to absorb information is astounding, school is far too unstimulating an environment for him for his age. probably because most kids brains are operating at half mast because they are starved of a lot of the nutrients they need to function properly, giving multi vitamin supplenents has shown to improve learning retention almost instantly, sure genetics and nurture play a strong part as well but nutrition is what can give the added edge. there is a strong correlation between socio economic levels and what people eat. the first mcdonalds was in otara, the second was in porirua and so on and so on, do they have mcdonalds in karori? khandallah? woburn>? remuera? fendalton? are there many if any fast food outlets there? compared to the lower socio economic areas?
I grew up living a high fat diet, i performed mediocrely at school, today i eat a diet according to your guidelines, i have a high stress job where i have to remember a lot of information and have competing demeands placed on me all over town i have to constantly reasses and reprioritise my workload all day every day and i can do it all in my head because of what i eat and because i stay very fit, i burnt the candle at both ends as a youngster and by 19 i had chronic fatigue by 21 i was unemployable for several years, yet today I"m a computer engineer responsible for several large corporates. i'm 38 and i can outthink people far younger than me and i put it down to my lifestyle, i dont have an extensive education , i grew up in a family where we vegetated in front of tv every night and using my brain wasnt greatly encouraged other than going to school regularly. i find on a good diet my brain is hungry for information and mental stimulation, i seek it out and i seek out a mentally stressful job for the stimulation.