Flaxseed oil capsules and fish oil are popular supplements taken to provide sufficient omega-3 fats in the diet. Omega-3 fats are a healthy addition to the diet for the prevention of high triglycerides and symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis.
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You can take flaxseed oil and fish oil together as long as there are no contraindications regarding your medications or health concerns. Please consult a doctor for recommendations.
The omega-3 fats in flaxseed oil vs. fish oil differ, however. Flaxseed oil contains the omega-3 fatty acid called alpha-linolenic acid (ALA,) whereas fish oil contains docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA). These oils provide many similar benefits, but differ in how the body processes them.
DHA and EPA are the most necessary forms of omega-3 fatty acids in the body. ALA can be converted into DHA and EPA, but the conversion rate as reported by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) is low, at under 15 percent. Omega-3 fats can be consumed in their natural form in foods or taken as supplements such as liquid or capsules.
Read more: Golden Flaxseed vs. Brown Flaxseed
What Are Omega-3 Fatty Acids?
Omega-3 fatty acids are one of the two major classes of polyunsaturated fatty acids, the other being omega-6. They are found most abundant in seafood and some seeds and nuts. The cell membranes in the body are formed by phospholipids that depend on omega-3s for their structure. Omega-3s also play roles in the cardiovascular, immune, endocrine and pulmonary systems.
The optimal way to consume enough omega-3 fatty acids per recommendations from the National Institutes of Health is through whole food sources. The NIH fact sheet on omega-3 fatty acids reports that only the consumption of whole seafood has been shown to provide protection from cardiovascular disease.
When studies have been completed using omega-3s in supplement form, the same results cannot be found. Although triglyceride levels were greatly reduced, risks of heart attack, stroke or death from cardiovascular causes did were not reduced compared to placebo.
Flaxseed Oil vs. Fish Oil
The omega-3 fatty acid ALA is a plant-based fatty acid found in nuts and seeds such as walnuts, soybeans, canola and flaxseed. Harvard Health states that flaxseed contains the highest amount of these at 7 grams per tablespoon. ALA must be converted into DHA and EPA in order to have positive effects on the body.
There are a confined amount of enzymes that can perform this conversion process, and as such, only a very small amount of DHA and EPA result from this. The report from Harvard reveals that a mere 10 to 15 percent, perhaps even less, of the omega-3s are converted into a useful form.
This is important because when looking at the labels of flaxseed and flaxseed oil capsules, the amount of omega-3 fatty acids stated is not an accurate representation of what the body is actually able to use. In fact, when the label states 7 grams per tablespoon, the actual usable amount will be approximately 700 milligrams. This is important to keep in mind when trying to attain the desired amounts of EPA and DHA in your diet.
Fish oil, on the other hand, is much higher in levels of EPA and DHA. According to the NIH, fish oil supplements vary, but on average they contain approximately 1 gram of fish oil per capsule. Each capsule typically provides 180 milligrams of EPA and 120 milligrams of DHA.
Is Combining These Supplements Safe?
Combining flaxseed oil and fish oil is safe, although could be unnecessary. If you are not vegan and are not opposed to taking fish oil, then it is a better bet for obtaining the correct amount of EPA and DHA in your diet. Harvard Health reports that flaxseed oil is not a substitute or replacement for fish oils. It is recommended that people consume 8 ounces of seafood each week in order to reap the many benefits of omega-3s and other nutrients found in whole food form.
The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health warns that people taking medications for blood clotting may be at risk when adding omega-3 supplements to their diet. Be aware of how much omega-3 you are ingesting if you are taking fish and flaxseed oil capsules together. Other symptoms of omega-3 supplements can include unpleasant breath, bad taste in the mouth, body odor, headache and gastrointestinal issues such as nausea, diarrhea and heartburn. Speak to your doctor if you experience any negative side effects.
Talk to a physician before adding any new supplement to your diet.