In this article, I wanted to examine if flaxseed oil could help with cholesterol control. Most people these days will have a pretty good understanding of what cholesterol is, and more importantly, understand that it needs to be controlled. For those that don’t here is a brief summary of what it is and the elements that can contribute to high cholesterol levels.
In the USA today the levels of this are higher than in any other industrial nation, and this is especially true for American children. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1 in 10 children has an elevated cholesterol level.
Their research can be read here by clicking on this link Cholesterol Levels In The USA
What Creates High Cholesterol Levels?
It is as we mentioned earlier a waxy substance that your body needs. The problem comes though when we have too much of it in our bodies. What happens then is that this wax-like substance attaches itself to the walls of our arteries. This, in turn, can impede the natural flow of blood through our veins.
When that happens it can lead to serious medical conditions such as strokes and heart attacks. That is why it is so important to have your cholesterol level checked regularly.
Generally speaking a poor diet and overeating are the two main causes of high levels. This behavior leads to high blood pressure and also puts tremendous pressure on the heart and the cardiovascular system generally.
The video below from the Cleveland Clinic shows Cardiologist Michael Rocco MD explains why cholesterol is a good thing, and also what happens when we have too much in our bodies.
So you can see what we eat has a lot to do with the levels we will have in our bodies. In fact, the liver produces the most cholesterol in our body at around 75%, whereas what we eat impacts the cholesterol level at around the remaining 25%.
So, in summary, we want to have cholesterol in our bodies but we want to keep that at a level where it does what it is supposed to do. We never want to allow it to get to the stage though where it may partially start to build up or block the artery walls.
Can Flaxseed Oil Help With Cholesterol Levels?
We know that flaxseed oil is made by crushing the seeds of the flax plant. Contained in this oil is both Omega 3 and Omega 6. These are both fatty acids that are needed for your overall general health. Now please bear with me as this does get a little technical.
I think however it is also really important to understand how all of this works together.
There are three terms that are important to fully understand when it comes to fatty acids and how they help us. These are:
These are strange terms I know but going forwards we will just use the abbreviations. Flaxseed oil contains the ALA and then the body converts this into EPA and also DHA. Both EPA and DHA are found in fish oil.
A lot of people disagree on whether flaxseed oil is as good as fish oil and there are arguments for both sides. One thing is clear though and that is the body is not actually that good at converting the ALA found in flaxseed oil into the other two parts which are the EPA and DHA.
Case Studies On Heart Disease
There is some pretty clear evidence that fish oil is known to reduce inflammation and is good for the prevention of heart disease. The same studies on flaxseed oil are actually very mixed.
Some studies show that it does help prevent heart disease and others are inconclusive. the American Heart Association has produced a number of journals on this subject and you can read those by clicking here. For those who don’t want to read through those long articles, I have a short summary below.
These studies showed that people who had fish in their diet had lower coronary heart disease. This was supported by case studies in the USA, Japan, and Brazil. However other studies completed by the Health Professionals’ Follow Up Study and the US Physicians’ Health Study both said there was no significant association between eating fish and heart disease. This is actually quite understandable as many other things impact heart diseases such as lifestyle, smoking, alcohol consumption and fitness levels.
There have been many scholarly reports written on this and the big issue is that none of them can make a clear statement that either fish oil, flaxseed oil or even eating fish can relate directly to an improved reduction in cholesterol levels or help prevent coronary disease.
The reason they can never do this is that there are too many other variables such as different lifestyles and many different diets.
There are no 100% clear answers to this question and I don’t believe there can ever be a conclusive report.
Is Flaxseed Oil Good For You?
It is generally believed and supported by various studies that both flaxseed oil and another omega 3 fatty acids could well be helpful in treating a number of conditions. One world fact that we do know for certain is that people living in
Mediterranean countries had a much better cholesterol level than anywhere else. That would point to a number of pretty obvious facts. Those people have a lot of fish in their diet and they also use a lot of oil, especially good quality olive oil.
They also eat a lot of root vegetables in their diet and also whole grain through their variety of bread. They would also not be huge red meat eaters and they avoid almost all saturated fats. You will not find too many chip shops in Italy even though they have moved to other countries and opened many there.
It is fair to say that having flaxseed oil as part of your diet will help with promoting a healthier body. There is not however one single piece of evidence that I could find that would say that flaxseed oil will help reduce cholesterol levels. We also know that eating foods that contain ALA is a much healthier option and they contain no saturated fats, which is the real problem for heart disease.
As you may now understand we need cholesterol in our bodies but at the right levels. The evidence to support the fact that either fish oil or indeed flaxseed oil will contribute to lower cholesterol levels is at best inconclusive.
We also know that a diet that has no saturated fats and contains fish and various oils will greatly help with lower cholesterol levels. Taking flaxseed oil has certainly got its benefits but it would be unfair to make an absolute claim that it will reduce cholesterol levels.