Flax oil, or flaxseed oil, is made from flax seeds. Flax seeds and oil are both traditional remedies for lowering cholesterol, and may have benefits for people with heart disease. Flax oil also has some different uses than flaxseed. The oil, for instance, may help relieve unpleasant symptoms of menopause and dry eyes due to Sjogren's syndrome. Flax oil in recommended doses of 1 to 2 tbsp. per day is not associated with many bad effects, according to the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. Still, you should check with your health care provider before taking flax oil.
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Flax oil can decrease blood clotting, which may increase the risk of abnormal bleeding. The National Institutes of Health, on its Medline Plus website, advises caution in using flax oil if you have a bleeding disorder or if you take medication or supplements with blood-thinning effects. Additionally, you may need to stop taking flax oil before an upcoming surgical or dental procedure. Consult with your doctor if you take anticoagulants such as warfarin or heparin, or antiplatelet drugs such as clopidogrel, as you may need a change in dosage. Other substances that can increase bleeding include aspirin, ibuprofen and ginkgo biloba.
Blood Sugar Increases
Flax oil contains alpha-linolenic acid, an omega-3 fatty acid. Omega-3 fatty acids are considered beneficial for heart health, but they may increase blood sugar, according to Medline Plus. This could be a problem for people with diabetes, and it might reduce the effects of medication taken for diabetes, including insulin and metformin. Medline Plus notes that research results in this area are conflicting.
Prostate Cancer Risk
Although some research indicates flax oil may lower the risk of developing prostate cancer, several studies have found a connection between alpha-linolenic acid supplements and an increased risk of prostate cancer, according to Medline Plus. The agency recommends that men with prostate cancer or at elevated risk for this disease not supplement with flax oil or other products high in alpha-linolenic acid.
The fatty acids in flax oil can be altered by exposure to heat, light and oxygen, which can make the oil turn rancid, explains the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. Rancid oils smell and taste unpleasant, and can have detrimental health effects. Store flax oil in a dark, cool place and don't cook with it. Instead, add flax oil to salads and cool vegetable dishes.