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Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Is flax seed oil better than fish oil?

"I take it that the flax seed oil is more beneficial than fish oil - why is that? Thanks for your help and advice."

Gary comments:
Andrew, the answer is this "Six of one and half a dozen of the other".

There are arguments that fish oil is easier to digest; but there are other arguments that flax oil's supposed indigestibility is a beat up by the billion dollar fishing industry.  The flax oil industry is tiny by comparison and cannot afford the big bucks for research and publicity.

I think the best solution is to go for a wide variety of healthy oils including fish and flax oils.  There is olive oil, walnut, sesame, avocado and coconut to name a few.  Flax oil is a good base oil to go with.

I do prefer flax oil because it comes from a sustainable source.  The fishing industry hasserious credibility problems with fish stock and outrageous environmental destruction.  I am doing my best to source fish oils from sustainably fished and environmentally friendly sources; but verifying this is easier said than done.  I know my flax oil all comes from South Canterbury and is from organic sustainable farming.
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Anonymous said...

I agree that we should get a variety of healthy oils in our diet. Flaxseed oil is an excellent plant-based source of the omega 3 fatty acid, alpha linolenic acid (ALA). Although our bodies have to convert the ALA into EPA and then DHA, I believe it still has a place in a healthy balanced diet. Fish oils provide a ready source of EPA and DHA, but some people may have concerns about omega 3 concentrations, purity and level of contaminants. In this case, a pharmaceutical-grade fish oil would probably be your best choice.

Alex said...

I appreciated your balanced article on flax oil versus fish oil, but I would like to sound a note of warning. Recently, several studies have been published that seem to indicate that taking flax seed, or flax seed oil, might exacerbate or even cause prostate cancer.
According to Prostate Forum, several labs have found that ALA (alpha-linolenic acid, an omega-3 fatty acid precursor found at high levels in flax seed) is one of the most powerful growth stimulants for human prostate cancer cells. The Prostate Forum has recommended against the use of flax oil by men with prostate cancer. Since flax oil is the richest readily available food source of ALA, the reasoning goes, this oil should cause the most prostate cancer.
Then came the dietary study in Uruguay that found that those with the highest intake of ALA had a 440% increase in their risk of getting prostate cancer compared with those at the lowest level. Therefore, since flax seed has a high concentration of ALA, it should be avoided by anyone who has prostate cancer or is worried about getting prostate cancer.
However, some of the other studies have been inconclusive, or even contradictory. Jon Barron’s website,, says “As it turns out, it may be a case of flax being declared guilty by being found at the scene of the crime, rather than actually being the criminal. Sort of like saying that policemen may actually cause crime because, statistically, you always find a lot of them at crime scenes.” He could be right, but the overall picture is confusing.
Whatever the situation, because I have prostate cancer, I play it safe by avoiding flax seeds or flax seed oil. I use fish oil capsules only, also because the EPA and DHA omega-3 fatty acids are much more readily utilised by the body than ALA. In addition, the EPA and DHA partially replace the omega-6 fats, especially arachidonic acid, in cell membranes. Better safe than sorry!

Gary Moller said...

I have read of this warning with regards to prostate cancer risk but recall it was dismissed as misleading but can not recall why. I would appreciate further advice from readers about this matter.

Certainly one thing about research is the saying "One swallow does not make a summer..." A single study needs to be followed up by further ones that confirm the results and these need to be balanced against others that may have results to the contrary.

I find it interesting that since I have gone back over the last couple of years to a diet that is higher in all kinds of fats and fat soluble vitamins that I no longer get up at night to pee and peeing is much more voluminous. My precancerous skin kerastoses have all disappeared, including the ulcerated ones - marvelous and bordering on miraculous! I think the extra flax oil has been party to this along with the rest.

Thanks for the comments Alex. I think it confirms the message in my article which encourages moderation and having a wide variety of sources of the healthy oils.

Anonymous said...

yep, a diet high in saturated fats, especially coconut oil, can often reverse all sorts of skin damage - in weeks!