Q and A (Flaxseeds/Fish Oil and 2:1 Odds That “Barry” Comments On This Post)

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Q: What’s your opinion of flaxseed oil and all of its supposed side effects? Also, would you recommend taking it in addition to or in place of fish oil? Thanks for any help… I love your stuff please keep it up.

A: First a little bit of the geeky stuff. There are two fatty acids that the body cannot biosynthesize, and are therefore considered essential: linoleic acid (an n-6) and “alpha-“linolenic acid (an n-3). These two fatty acids must be obtained from the diet because the body lacks the delta-15 and the delta-12 desaturases, which are needed to create double bonds and elongate fatty acid chains beyond 9 carbons to create these essential compounds. Come to think of it, that’s not nearly as geeky as I thought. There’s more of where that came from. Ladies? You+Me+Fatty acid metabolism+Star Wars+Tetris=most romantic night of your life. True Story.

As nutritionist/strength coach/smart mofo Alan Aragon has noted on several occasions:

“……based on estimates from archaeological and modern-day hunter-gatherer population research, human beings originally thrived on a diet whose ratio of n-6 to n-3 fatty acids was approximately 1:1, and unlikely to be greater than 4:1. It also contained far less trans fatty acids and than the present diet. Today, consumption of n-6 to n-3 fatty acids is roughly 25:1. A major cause for this is the predominance of n-6 oils (corn oil, sunflower oil, safflower oil, refined packaged grain products) and a relative minority in n-3 sources (fatty marine fish, flaxseed oil, walnuts, and small amounts of canola oil).”

That being said, there is often a stigma associated with flaxseed products in general. Barry Bonds’ jokes aside, it’s often been noted that ingesting flaxseed to increase levels of EPA/DHA (the omega-3’s) is pointless due to the poor conversion rate of ALA into the said omega-3’s. However, in his book Girth Control, Aragon showcased a study in which a team recently observed 3g ALA/day (from 5.2g flaxseed oil) raise plasma EPA levels by 60% at the end of a 12-week trial.*

Personally, I’m not a big fan of the taste of flaxseed oil. I’m sure there are some products out there that taste great (if you know of any feel free to leave a comment), but I’d rather drink a glass of diarrhea. Conversely, I use ground flaxseeds quite a bit. I’ll add a tablespoon to my protein shake in the morning, and I also like to add them in my homemade protein bars (to give them a bit of a nutty taste). Furthermore, a serving elicits roughly 3-5 grams of fiber (depending on the brand), and the lignan found in flaxseeds also serves as an antioxidant. And yes, I realize that lignans are phytoestrogenic (estrogen like chemicals), but honestly, you’d have to eat a shit-ton in order to develop man-boobs, so relax fellas.

Long story short, I wouldn’t go out of your way to exclude flaxseed products out of your diet. I think if you’re making sound choices and getting more n-3’s in your diet (flaxseeds, fatty fish, nuts, fish oil capsules, nuts, etc), you’ll be fine.

* I know you were expecting me to reference said study. Well, I’m not. Go buy the book you selfish bastard.** Click here.

**Listen, it’s me. I didn’t mean to call you a selfish bastard. I’m sorry. Can you forgive me? Who’s my cute little monkey head? You are, that’s who.

***PS, I love you.

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