Fats for Health:
Flax and Borage Seed Oils
Two fats we need may also need each other
In this day and age of fat phobia and the resultant
barrage of low fat and non-fat food products lining the grocery
store aisles, a recommendation to supplement your daily diet with
one to two tablespoons of essential fatty acid rich oil would appear
to go against the grain. To the contrary, this is exactly what
health conscious consumers are doing across the country, not only to
attain and maintain optimal health, but in many instances, as a
treatment for the over 60 health ailments the essential fatty acids
have been scientifically validated to benefit.
While it is true Americans should not consume more
than 20-30 percent of daily calories as fats, a lack of the dietary
essential fatty acids has been suggested to facilitate degenerative
disease. If surveys are correct that approximately 80 percent
of our population is deficient in the essential fatty acids, this
may present a serious health threat. Unfortunately, mass
commercial refinement of fats and oils products and foods containing
them has effectively eliminated the essential fatty acid from our
food chain, contributing to our modern-day deficiency.
Organic, unrefined flaxseed oil is considered by
many to be the answer to this health dilemma. Oil extracted
from organic flaxseeds is unique because it contains both essential
fatty acids: alpha-linolenic, an omega-3 fatty acid, and
linoleic acid, an omega-6 fatty acid, in appreciable amounts.
Flaxseed oil is the world's richest source of omega-3 fatty acids,
at a whopping 57 percent (over two times the amount of omega-3 fatty
acids as fish oils). Omega-3 fatty acids have been extensively
studied for their beneficial effects toward:
high cholesterol levels
high blood pressure
psoriasis and eczema
The high content of omega-3 fatty acids inherent in
flaxseed oil is but one of its positive attributes. The
essential fatty acids combined here have proven to impart a
regulatory function in the body's fatty acid metabolism. Fat
metabolism is as important, if not more critical, than our body's
metabolism of proteins and carbohydrates, as evidenced by the
drastic rise in fat-related degenerative diseases such as vascular
disease and strokes. Dietary essential fatty acids common to
flaxseed oil are ultimately converted to hormone-like substances
known as prostaglandins, and are important for the regulation of a
host of bodily functions including:
inflammation, pain, and swelling
pressure in the eye, joints, or blood vessels
secretions from mucus membranes, and their
smooth muscle and autonomic reflexes:
gastrointestinal, arterial, ear, and heart
allergic responses and rheumatoid arthritis
steroid production and hormone synthesis
Scientists continue to discover regulating effects
of prostaglandins. Without the essential fatty acids -- the
building blocks of Prostaglandins -- a malfunction of fat metabolism
is certain, as are problems in the regulation of the above-listed
For some individuals, flaxseed oil may offer only
half of the solution. Those deficient in co-factor nutrients,
specifically the Vitamins pro-A, A, C, E, B2, B6, pantothenic acid,
B12, biotin, and the minerals calcium, magnesium, potassium, sulfur,
and zinc, sometimes have difficulty in converting the omega-6 fatty
acid, linoleic acid, found in flax and other seed oils, to the
Still others are thought to lack the necessary
enzyme (catalyst) to make this conversion; particularly those
afflicted with diabetes, asthma, cystic fibrosis, multiple
sclerosis, alcoholism, and the aged.
For those suffering from co-factor deficiencies, two
broad-spectrum multi-vitamin and mineral supplements may be
recommended with perhaps an oil supplement rich in gamma-linolenic
acid (GLA). Individuals who may lack the proper enzyme system
would require a GLA supplement in addition to the flaxseed oil to
effectively skip over the absent or impaired enzyme and continue on
toward normal production of beneficial prostaglandins.
Nature's most potent concentration of GLA comes in
the form of organic borage seed oil (24 percent). A great deal
of scientific research has been conducted with supplements rich in
GLA, resulting in significant interest regarding the aforementioned
health ailments, as well as those affected by premenstrual syndrome,
benign breast disease, eczema, psoriasis, obesity, and vascular
When considering an essential fatty acid supplement
and deciding on either organic flax or borage seed oils, the most
sensible solution may be a formulation of the two. The
combination of both organic flax and organic borage seed oil yields
a true omega twin by providing nature's best of the omega-3 fatty
acids in flax with the best of omega-6 fatty acids in GLA rich
borage oil. This option has now been made available by a
flax/borage oil product that can be found in many health food
Supplementation with a combination of organic flax
and borage seed oils makes good sense for the following reasons:
Omega-3 fatty acids and GLA together exert
favorable effects on the production of beneficial prostaglandins.
A number of health problems have proven to benefit
from both omega-3 fatty acids and GLA supplementation.
Organic flaxseed oil combined with organic borage
oil may exhibit synergistic, complementary effects.
Optimal conversion or fatty acids to beneficial
prostaglandins is more likely assured.
A combination of flax and borage oils in a single
formulation is less expensive than purchasing both separately.
In conclusion, the answer appears not to be no
fat, but the right fat, as common to organic flax and borage
seed oils, to achieve optimal health.
Past and present scientific research supports the
use of essential fatty acid nutrients in promoting optimal health.
Flaxseed oil is recognized as nature's richest source of essential
and omega-3 fatty acids. Borage seed oil is recognized as
nature's richest source of GLA. These natural plant substances
used alone have created a great deal of interest in the treatment of
numerous health problems. Evidence exists to suggest the
combination of omega-3 fatty acids with gamma-linolenic acid (GLA)
may further complement the therapeutic result of either fatty acid
The Essential Fatty Acids. Sardosal. V.M.
(Nutrition in Clinical Practice, August, 1992).
The Metabolic Role of W-3 Polyunsaturated Fatty
Acids: Relationship to Human Disease, Kelly, F.J. (Comparative
Summary of the NATO Advanced Research Workshop on
Dietary Omega-3 and Omega-6 Fatty Acids, Simopoulos, A.P. (Journal
of Nutrition, April 1989).
The Effects of Flaxseed Supplementation on Early
Risk Markers for Mammary Carcinogenesis, Serraino, M. (Cancer
Letter, November 1991.
High Alpha-Linoleic Acid Flaxseed, Some
Nutritional Properties in Humans, Cunnane, S.C. (British
Journal of Nutrition, March 1993).
Effect of Flaxseed Supplementation on Arachidonic
Acid Metabolism. Bowen, P.E. (University of Illinois at
The Effects of Dietary Flaxseed on Estrogen
Metabolism in Women, Kurzer, M.S. (Proceedings of the Flax
Borage or Primrose Oil Added to Standardized Diets
are Equivalent Sources of Gamma-Linolenic Acid in Rats,
Raedarstorff, D. (Lipids, December 1992).
The Effects of Gamma-Linoleic Acid on Human
Diabetic Peripheral Neuropathy, Jamal, G.A. (Diabetic Medicine,
Significance and Motivation of the Chemical Use of
Essential Fatty Acid Derivatives, Especially GLA (Clinica
Terapeutica, March 1990).
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