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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
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