Flaxseed oil capsules are a vegetarian source of omega-3 fatty acids. Unlike animal sources of this nutrient, however, flaxseed oil contains a type omega-3 fatty acid called alpha-linolenic acid. Your body must first convert ALA into eicosapentaenoic acid, or EPA, and docosahexaenoic acid, or DPA. These two omega-3 fatty acids are naturally found in fish oil. Although it is not known if flaxseed oil is as beneficial as fish oil, you can still get a healthy dose of omega-3s by supplementing your diet with flaxseed oil capsules.
Convenience of Capsules
Flaxseed oil is pressed from flaxseeds. The capsule form conceals the oily taste and makes it easy to swallow. Unlike whole flaxseeds, flaxseed oil capsules do not contain soluble fiber and phytoestrogens -- plant estrogens. They do give you a concentrated dose of ALA omega-3 fatty acids, however.
A 2008 study published in the "American Journal of Clinical Nutrition" reports that consuming ALA supplements over 12 weeks raises the levels of DHA and EPA in the bloodstream. The resulting increase of omega-3 fatty acids may help reduce inflammation and lower your risk of chronic conditions such as arthritis and heart disease. But you need a much larger dose of flaxseed oil to get the same benefits of a smaller amount of fish oil. More recently, "Critical Reviews in Food Science and Literature" noted that only minimal amounts of ALA are converted into EPA and DHA. Consult your doctor to determine whether ALA is the best type of omega-3 fatty acid for you.
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Flaxseed Oil
- National Institutes of Health: Flaxseed and Flaxseed Oil
- American Journal of Clinical Nutrition: Flaxseed Oil and Fish-Oil Capsule Consumption Alters Human Red Blood Cell N–3 Fatty Acid Composition
- Critical Reviews in Food Science and Literature: Bioavailability and Potential Uses of Vegetarian Sources of Omega-3 Fatty Acids: A Review of the Literature