Rich in omega-3 fatty acids, flaxseed oil is gaining ground as a functional food with many potential health benefits. However, if you're taking prescription medication, talk to your pharmacist or primary care provider about potential flaxseed oil drug interactions first.
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No, it's not always safe to take flaxseed oil with other medications. Talk to your primary care provider or pharmacist to discuss flaxseed oil drug interactions.
Flaxseed Oil for Omega-3s
Your body is an amazing physiological machine. However, it requires a steady dose of essential nutrients, which must come from food or supplements, in order to function at its best.
Though your body can make many types of fat on its own, such as cholesterol, omega-3 fatty acids are essential and must be supplied from outside sources. Omega-3 fats are best known for improving heart health, but your body uses the essential fat to perform many vital functions, including the formation of cell membranes and the creation of hormones that control blood clotting, blood vessel function and inflammation.
Fish, walnuts, chia seeds and flaxseed oil are excellent sources of omega-3 fats. A September 2014 article published in the Journal of Food Science and Technology says flaxseed oil is the best plant source of the essential fat. One tablespoon of flaxseed oil has 7.26 grams. The adequate intake (AI) for omega-3 fatty acids is 1.6 grams for men and 1.1 grams for women.
Flaxseed oil may be rich in omega-3 fatty acids, but it may not be the right type. There are three primary types of omega-3s, including alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). Flaxseed oil contains ALA, which your body primarily uses as a source of energy, according to Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
Can Flaxseed Oil Benefit Health?
The authors of the article in the Journal of Food Science and Technology call flaxseed oil a functional food because of its potential health benefits. However, whether flaxseed oil benefits your health is still under debate, according to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH).
Most of the health benefits associated with omega-3 fatty acids — from improving heart health to reducing inflammation — are due to EPA and DHA, which come from fish and fish oil. Though your body contains enzymes that convert ALA from flaxseed oil into EPA and DHA, your body only converts 10 to 15 percent of the ALA, says Harvard Health Publishing.
Research investigating the health benefits of flaxseed oil, however, show some promise for the plant oil. An April 2018 study published in Kardiologia Polska found that a flaxseed oil dosage of 1 tablespoon a day for four weeks decreased bad cholesterol, increased good cholesterol and improved blood pressure in a group of men and women with mild hypercholesterolemia.
Flaxseed oil may also lower insulin and improve antioxidant activity in people with Type 2 diabetes, according to a July 2019 randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study published in Phytotherapy Research.
However, NCCIH says the evidence that flaxseed oil has health benefits is conflicting, and more research is needed before claims can be made.
Read more: What Are the Benefits of Flaxseed Oil Pills?
Flaxseed Oil Drug Interactions
Even though it's just a food, flaxseed oil may not mix well with certain health conditions or medications. Because of the potential for flaxseed oil side effects and drug interactions, you should talk to your primary care provider before regularly supplementing your diet with the plant oil.
Mount Sinai cautions against combining flaxseed oil, diabetes and certain medications that lower blood sugar. The omega-3 supplement may increase your fasting blood sugar levels and decrease the effectiveness of your diabetes medication.
You may also want to be careful combining flaxseed oil and warfarin, which is a blood-thinning medication that prevents the formation of blood clots. The Mayo Clinic warns that using flaxseed oil with this blood thinner, or any other anticoagulant, may increase your risk of bleeding.
Though flaxseed oil benefits your blood pressure, if you take blood pressure medication and supplement your diet regularly with flaxseed oil, the combination may lower your blood pressure too much.
Flaxseed oil drug interactions may also improve the effectiveness of some medications, notes Mount Sinai, including nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and prescription medications that lower blood cholesterol. However, you should always talk to your primary care provider to discuss flaxseed oil dosage and safety before adding the plant oil to your daily routine.
- National Institutes of Health: Office of Dietary Supplements: "Omega-3 Fatty Acids"
- Journal of Food Science and Technology: "Flax and Flaxseed Oil: An Ancient Medicine & Modern Functional Food"
- USDA: FoodData Central: "Flaxseed Oil"
- Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health: "Omega-3 Fatty Acids: An Essential Contribution"
- National Institutes of Health National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health: "Flaxseed and Flaxseed Oil"
- Harvard Health Publishing: "Why Not Flaxseed Oil?"
- Kardiologia Polska: "Linseed Oil Increases HDL3 Cholesterol and Decreases Blood Pressure in Patients Diagnosed With Mild Hypercholesterolaemia"
- Phytotherapy Research: "A Comparison Between the Effects of Flaxseed Oil and Fish Oil Supplementation on Cardiovascular Health in Type 2 Diabetic Patients With Coronary Heart Disease: A Randomized, Double-Blinded, Placebo-Controlled Trial"
- Mount Sinai: "Flaxseed Oil"
- U.S. National Library of Medicine: "Warfarin"
- Mayo Clinic: "Flaxseed and Flaxseed Oil"