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Omega 3 fatty acids are polyunsaturated fatty acids which the body can't make on its own; it can be only obtained from foods which are naturally rich in omega 3 fatty acids like fatty fishes, plant-based oils, nuts and seeds.
Flaxseed and fish oil are excellent sources of omega 3 fatty acids. Omega 3 fatty acids should be a part of your daily diet as it provides a number of health benefits, which includes promoting heart health, supporting mental health and fighting inflammation to name a few , .
In this article, we will explain what is flaxseed oil and fish oil and which one is better for you.
What Is Flaxseed Oil?
Flaxseed (Linum usitatissimum) has been prized for their health-promoting properties because it is a rich source of omega 3 fatty acids, protein, fibre, vitamins and minerals.
Ripened and dried flaxseeds are cold-pressed to extract the oil called flaxseed oil, commonly also known as linseed oil.
Both flaxseed and flaxseed oil are rich in omega 3 fatty acids, which have been linked to an array of health benefits . Flaxseed oil is available in the form of liquid and supplements.
What Is Fish Oil?
Fish oil is made by extracting oil from the fish tissues. Fish oil is consumed in the form of dietary supplements. Mackerel, tuna, herring, salmon and cod are some of the fatty fishes from which the oil is extracted and made supplements .
Studies have shown that getting adequate amounts of omega 3 fatty acids from fish or fish oil supplements aid in proper foetal development, improve heart function and prevent the risk of Alzheimer's disease .
The American Heart Association recommends eating fatty fishes twice a week to get most of the omega 3 fatty acids .
Omega 3 Fatty Acids In Flaxseed Oil And Fish Oil
There are many types of omega 3 fatty acids, however the three most common ones are: eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and alpha-linolenic acid (ALA).
The two types of omega 3 fats found in fish oil are eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). EPA and DHA have been associated with a number of health benefits such as proper development of the foetus, improvement of heart function, prevention of the risk of Alzheimer's disease and aid in weight loss , , .
On the other hand, flaxseed oil is rich in omega 3 fatty acid called alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). ALA is not biologically active and needs to be converted into EPA and DHA before it can be utilised by the body forenergy.
However, this conversion process is inefficient because only small amounts of ALA is converted into EPA which is between 0.2 to 21 per cent and ALA converted to DHA is between 0 to 9 per cent .
Studies have shown the health benefits of ALA, which includes promoting heart health, reducing inflammation and aiding in the proper functioning of the central nervous system .
Shared Benefits Of Flaxseed Oil And Fish Oil
Although, flaxseed oil and fish oil possess different types of omega 3 fatty acids both share the same health benefits. These include the following:
- Keeps heart healthy - Multiple studies have shown that both flaxseed oil and fish oil is good for heart health. Studies have shown that flaxseed oil can reduce blood pressure, which is a major risk factor for heart disease , . Fish oil has also been shown to lower blood pressure in many studies , .
- Lowers inflammation - Much of the anti-inflammatory properties in fish oil comes from the omega 3 fatty acids. Studies have shown that fish oil can lower inflammation, which is a risk factor for many chronic conditions  . The anti-inflammatory properties of flaxseed oil were also pointed out in some studies , .
- Enhances skin health - Studies have shown that consumption of fish oil supplements may improve many skin problems . Similarly, as per another study, flaxseed oil has been shown to decrease skin sensitivity, skin roughness and scaling of the skin .
Other Benefits Of Flaxseed Oil
Apart from the shared benefits, flaxseed oil has been shown to treat gastrointestinal problems like constipation and diarrhoea. A study pointed out that flaxseed oil can help treat constipation in patients who are undergoing hemodialysis .
Animal studies have shown that flaxseed oil can help reduce the growth of cancer cells . However, further research is needed in humans.
Other Benefits Of Fish Oil
Another study has shown that consumption of fish oil may benefit during pregnancy. It can help in the proper development of the foetus .
Flaxseed Oil Vs Fish Oil: Which One Is Better?
Both flaxseed oil and fish oil have health-promoting properties, which have been backed by research studies. However, fish oil may have a higher edge due to the presence of EPA and DHA omega 3 fatty acids.
In addition, the presence of ALA in flaxseed oil is not converted efficiently into EPA and DHA, only very small amounts of ALA is converted into EPA and DHA. This means that consumption of fish oil supplements will provide more benefits compared to flaxseed oil.
Also, many people may not be able to take fish oil supplements because they are either allergic to fish or they follow a vegetarian diet, which makes flaxseed oil an appropriate choice for them.
However, it is advisable to consult a doctor before you take fish oil or flaxseed oil supplements.