According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in five Americans has high levels of blood fats called triglycerides that can raise the risk of heart attacks. High triglyceride levels are often caused by eating unhealthy foods, which is why one of the best ways to lower your triglycerides is to change your diet. Research is showing flaxseed oil may be beneficial for triglyceride levels, although other studies have been disappointing and found no benefits.
Triglycerides are a form of fatty lipids in your blood produced in the liver. Your body converts any calories it doesn't need from the food you consume into triglycerides, which are then stored in fat cells. Some stored triglycerides are used as energy, but excess triglycerides can build to unhealthy levels. Although a normal triglyceride level is sometimes defined as less than 200 mg/dL of blood, the American Heart Association recommends you maintain a triglyceride level of 100 mg/dL or lower to maintain good health.
Flaxseed oil, also known as linseed oil, is from seeds of the flax plant, which has been cultivated in Europe since the Stone Age. Flaxseed oil contains important compounds known as omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids that work together in the right ratio to keep inflammation levels low in your body. Flaxseed also has a group of chemicals called lignans that may play a role in preventing and treating various diseases.
A study at the a medical institute in Romania investigated the role of flaxseed on levels of cholesterol and triglycerides in 2005 and found that human patients who were given a flaxseed supplement for 60 days had a 17 percent average reduction in total cholesterol and a 34 percent reduction in triglycerides. Kalish Prasad, M.D, conducted a review of flaxseed extract research in 2009, published in the "Journal of Cardiovascular Pharmacology." He determined that flaxseed oil doesn't affect blood lipids in general, but does induce a slight reduction in triglycerides.
A Canadian research team compared the effects of fish oil, flaxseed oil and hempseed oil on various markers for cardiovascular health in 86 healthy patients for 12 weeks. Their results, published in the "Journal of the American College of Nutrition" in 2008, found that none of the oils produced any changes in total cholesterol or blood lipids, including triglycerides. Similar results were published in a 2009 issue of the "American Journal of Clinical Nutrition," after a review of 28 different studies found no reduction in triglycerides from supplementation with flaxseed oil. One 2005 study in the "Journal of Cardiovascular Pharmacology and Therapeutics" even suggested that flaxseed increased triglyceride levels in healthy male subjects.
There is no recommended intake for flaxseed oil, which is available in liquid form and in softgel capsules. Flaxseed oil is easily destroyed by heat, light and oxygen, so it should be stored in a cool, dark location. Although generally considered safe, flaxseed oil can increase the effects of blood thinners like aspirin, Coumadin and Plavix and potentially cause serious bleeding. Check with your doctor before using flaxseed oil supplements if you're taking any medications or have a pre-existing medical condition.
- “Archives of Internal Medicine”; Hypertriglyceridemia and Its Pharmacologic Treatment Among US Adults; Earl S. Ford, et al.; March 2009
- University of Maryland Medical Center; Flax Seed Oil; May 2010
- "Medical-Surgical Journal of the Society of Physicians and Naturalists"; Flaxseed Supplementation in Hyperlipidemic Patients; S. Mandaşescu, et al.; Jul-Sept 2005
- "Journal of Cardiovascular Pharmacology"; Flaxseed and Cardiovascular Health; K. Prasad; November 2009
- "Journal of the American College of Nutrition"; A Comparison of Fish Oil, Flaxseed Oil and Hempseed Oil Supplementation on Selected Parameters of Cardiovascular Health in Healthy Volunteers; Nalini Kaul, et al.; February 2008