What is the Difference between Flaxseed Oil and Fish Oil?

Supplements are highly beneficial in promoting and maintaining good health. But knowing which you should take can be quite confusing at times, especially when you are already there inside the store, facing rows and shelves of various food supplements.

Among the common food supplements that people take are flaxseed oil and fish oil. They both seem the same since they both provide good amounts of omega-3. But the two are still different in many ways. So, what is the difference between flaxseed oil and fish oil?

Flaxseed oil vs. fish oil

One main difference between flaxseed oil and fish oil is the origin of the oil. Flaxseed oil is the oil from the seed of the flax plant. The seeds are dried before the oil is extracted from them. It is also known as linseed oil. Fish oil, on the other hand, is the oil derived from the fatty tissues of the fish. These fishes are not just any type of fish. Usual sources of fish oil are tuna, mackerel, salmon, herring, and cod. Just by knowing this, you can tell that the two oils are different from each other.

Another difference between flaxseed oil and fish oil is the component of the oil. While it is true that both types of oil contain high amounts of omega-3 fatty acids, there are different types of these fatty acids. What flaxseed oil has is the alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), while fish oil contains eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and the docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). And the three fatty acids have different functions. ALA is said to be the parent fatty acid of the two others, EPA and DHA. When the body processes the ALA, by-products are formed. Among of which is the EPA. And EPA can, in turn, elongate and become DHA. So, from ALA to EPA, down to DHA, this is the process of forming omega-3 fatty acids. And this difference of omega-3 fatty acids is ultimately what you need to be aware of when choosing between flaxseed oil and fish oil.

To further differentiate the two, let us look at the benefits of the various omega-3 fatty acids. Most benefits associated with omega-3 fatty acids are from EPA and DHA. In humans, EPA is used to produce hormone-like substances with anti-inflammatory properties that alleviate symptoms of gout and arthritis. These also help prevent cardiovascular diseases. And DHA is a necessary component of the brain and the retina. DHA is highly needed for the development of the brain and the eyes. ALA benefits, on the other hand, are all believed to be only results of the conversion of ALA into EPA and DHA.

Considering these facts, one can tell that fish oil is more beneficial compared to flaxseed oil. The EPA and DHA in fish oil have more advantages than the ALA found in flaxseed oil. And when you consider that the conversion rate of ALA into EPA and DHA is very small, around 1% to 2% only.

However, flaxseed oil is still advantageous compared to fish oil in some aspects. One is that ALA present flaxseed oil does not only produce EPA and DHA. Other fatty acids may also be formed from ALA. The second advantage is that is has less contaminant, if not zero contaminants. Most fatty fishes, especially those that live deep within the ocean, have high chances of being contaminated with poisonous substances. Fishes tend to accumulate mercury, arsenic, and DDT through time. And if the fish is contaminated, then its oil is most likely already contaminated. Flaxseed oil is safer to consume in that sense.

Human beings cannot produce their own omega-3 fatty acids. The only way to have them is to consume certain foods with these fatty acids. Be sure to choose what food supplement you really need.

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