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Flaxseed Oil
What is it? Overview Usage Side Effects and Warnings

Flaxseed Oil Usage

Written by FoundHealth.

Therapeutic Uses

The best use of flaxseed oil is as a general nutritional supplement to provide essential fatty acids. There is little evidence that it is effective for any specific therapeutic purpose.

Flaxseed oil has been proposed as a less smelly alternative to fish oil for the prevention of heart disease . However, there is as yet no consistent evidence that it works. One double-blind study of 56 people failed to find that flax oil improved cholesterol profile . 1 Other studies did find improvements in cholesterol and/or blood pressure , but these were small trials and suffered from serious problems in study design. 2 One study found that a diet high in ALA (from sources other than flaxseed oil) was associated with a reduced risk of heart disease. 3 However, there were so many other factors involved that it is hard to say what caused what. 4

Sjogren’s syndrome is an autoimmune condition in which the immune system destroys moisture-producing glands, such as tear glands and salivary glands. It can occur by itself, or in conjunction with other autoimmune diseases, such as lupus . One small, double-blind study found preliminary evidence that use of flaxseed oil at a dose of 1-2 g daily can improve dry eye symptoms in Sjogren’s syndrome. 5 One very preliminary study hints that flaxseed oil may enhance the effects of conventional treatments for bipolar disorder when combined with conventional medications. 6 It has been suggested that flaxseed oil may have anticancer effects due to its ALA and lignan content. However, the supporting evidence for this belief is incomplete and somewhat contradictory (some studies actually found weak evidence of increased cancer risk with higher ALA intake). 7 8 9 10 11 12 Although fish oil appears to be effective for reducing symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis , one study failed to find flaxseed oil helpful for this purpose. 13 One study failed to find flaxseed oil helpful for preventing premature birth . 14 One small randomized trial found flaxseed oil ineffective for reducing blood sugar in people with type 2 diabetes . 15


  1. Harper CR, Edwards MC, Jacobson TA. Flaxseed oil supplementation does not affect plasma lipoprotein concentration or particle size in human subjects. J Nutr. 2006;136:2844-8.
  2. Harper CR, Edwards MC, Jacobson TA. Flaxseed oil supplementation does not affect plasma lipoprotein concentration or particle size in human subjects. J Nutr. 2006;136:2844-8.
  3. de Lorgeril M, Renaud S, Mamelle N, Salen P, Martin JL, Monjaud I, Guidollet J, Touboul P, Delaye J. Mediterranean alpha-linolenic acid-rich diet in secondary prevention of coronary heart disease. Lancet. 343(8911):1454-9.
  4. Rice RD. Mediterranean diet. Lancet. 344(8926):893-4.
  5. Pinheiro MN Jr, dos Santos PM, dos Santos RC, et al. Oral flaxseed oil ( Linum usitatissimum ) in the treatment for dry-eye Sjogren's syndrome patients. Arq Bras Oftalmol. 2007;70:649-655.
  6. Stoll AL, Locke CA, Marangell LB, Severus WE. Omega-3 fatty acids and bipolar disorder: a review. Prostaglandins Leukot Essent Fatty Acids. 60(5-6):329-37.
  7. Bougnoux P, Koscielny S, Chajès V, Descamps P, Couet C, Calais G. alpha-Linolenic acid content of adipose breast tissue: a host determinant of the risk of early metastasis in breast cancer. Br J Cancer. 70(2):330-4.
  8. Rose DP. Dietary fatty acids and cancer. Am J Clin Nutr. 1997;66(suppl):998S–1003S.
  9. Thompson LU. Experimental studies on lignans and cancer. Baillieres Clin Endocrinol Metab. 12(4):691-705.
  10. Maillard V, Bougnoux P, Ferrari P, Jourdan ML, Pinault M, Lavillonnière F, Body G, Le Floch O, Chajès V. N-3 and N-6 fatty acids in breast adipose tissue and relative risk of breast cancer in a case-control study in Tours, France. Int J Cancer. 98(1):78-83.
  11. Fritsche KL, Johnston PV. Effect of dietary alpha-linolenic acid on growth, metastasis, fatty acid profile and prostaglandin production of two murine mammary adenocarcinomas. J Nutr. 120(12):1601-9.
  12. De Stefani E, Deneo-Pellegrini H, Mendilaharsu M, Ronco A. Essential fatty acids and breast cancer: a case-control study in Uruguay. Int J Cancer. 76(4):491-4.
  13. Nordstrom DCE, Honkanen VEA, Nasu Y, et al. Alpha-linolenic acid in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis. A double-blind, placebo-controlled and randomized study: Flaxseed vs. safflower seed. Rheumatol Int. 1995;14:231–234.
  14. Knudsen VK, Hansen HS, Osterdal ML, Mikkelsen TB, Mu H, Olsen SF. Fish oil in various doses or flax oil in pregnancy and timing of spontaneous delivery: a randomised controlled trial. BJOG. 113(5):536-43.
  15. Barre DE, Mizier-Barre KA, Griscti O, Hafez K. High dose flaxseed oil supplementation may affect fasting blood serum glucose management in human type 2 diabetics. J Oleo Sci. 57(5):269-73.


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