Can Fish Oil & Flax Seed Oil Be Taken Together?

Can Fish Oil & Flax Seed Oil Be Taken Together?

June 6, 2011 | By Manuel Attard
Can Fish Oil & Flax Seed Oil Be Taken Together?
Photo Credit Comstock Images/Comstock/Getty Images
Fish oil is extracted from oily fish while flax seed oil is extracted from flax seeds. Both fish- and flax seed oil contain high levels of omega-3 fatty acids, but different types. The omega-3 fatty acid found in flax seed oil is alpha-linolenic acid, ALA — an essential fatty acid which the body cannot synthesize and needs to obtain from the diet. The body can then modify alpha-linolenic acid to form eicosapentaenoic acid, EPA, and docosahexaenoic acid, DHA. However, that conversion is very inefficient. On the other hand, the fats in fish oil are already of the EPA and DHA form. As the August 2010 issue of “Lipids in Health and Disease” reports, EPA and DHA exert much stronger health benefits than ALA.

Benefits of Omega-3s

The “Manual of Dietetic Practice” lists several health benefits to omega-3 consumption, particularly EPA and DHA. The benefits include protection from heart disease by lowering triglycerides in the blood and inhibiting atherosclerosis; protection from cancer; and inhibition of inflammation. They also are essential for brain development in infants.


Fish Oil or Flax Seed Oil?

Experts recognize that the benefits associated with omega-3 consumption are mostly due to EPA and DHA, and not ALA. In this respect, fish oil is superior to flax seed oil, and if you are only going to use one supplement, you should choose fish oil. On the other hand, flax seed oily may be more appealing because some people might worry that fish oil can contain contaminants. Moreover, strict vegetarians will not consume fish oil. Another advantage of flax seed oil is that ALA can be converted to other elongated fatty acids, and not just EPA and DHA.

What about Omega-6?

The omega-6 fatty acid linoleic acid is also an essential fatty acid. However, most Western diets contain too much omega-6s relative to omega-3s, and this can result in adverse effects on health, including increased inflammation. The omega 3 to omega 6 ratio is very important, possibly more than the actual intakes themselves. The relationship between the two is especially important because in the body, competitive inhibition occurs between the enzymes involved in the metabolism of the two — a high intake of one will inhibit and disrupt the metabolism of the other one. The October 2002 issue of “Biomedicine and Pharmacotherapy” reports that the optimal ratio of omega 6 to omega 3 is 4:1 or even as low as 1:1. In contrast, current Western diets are closer to 16:1.

Taking Fish Oil and Flax Seed Oil Together

As fish oil and flax seed oil contain the same family of fatty acids — omega-3s — there wouldn’t be a problem if the two are taken together, although ingesting large amounts of oil in one sitting can result in an upset stomach. On the other hand, omega-3 fatty acids shouldn’t be taken with omega-6 sources such as sunflower, evening primrose, wheat germ, and hemp oils.


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