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Does Flaxseed Oil Reduce Cholesterol?

By Janet Renee

While you may not need the fat in the cheeseburger and fries at your favorite fast-food restaurant, certain fatty acids play an essential role in your health. Flaxseed oil, for example, is rich in alpha-linolenic acid, or ALA -- a beneficial omega-3 fat. If you're like most Americans, you don't get enough omega-3 fats in your diet. Researchers have linked eating a diet rich in this fat to a decreased risk for heart disease. Flaxseed oil doesn't appear to lower cholesterol, but clinical data indicates it may still benefit your heart.

The Cholesterol Connection

Having a healthy cholesterol profile plays a crucial role in heart health. This profile includes high-density lipoprotein, a good form of cholesterol, low-density lipoprotein, a bad form of cholesterol, and total cholesterol levels. You need to keep LDL low, HDL higher and total cholesterol within a safe range. Eating a diet rich in unsaturated fats, particularly omega-3s and low in saturated fat, is one of the best ways you can protect yourself against heart disease.

No Noticeable Effect on Cholesterol

Researchers from the Office of Health Promotion and Disease Prevention, Emory University and Commonwealth University conducted a study to determine whether flaxseed oil affected cholesterol levels. In a small, randomized double-blind trial, participants took 3 grams of ALA from flaxseed oil or a placebo daily for 26 weeks. The study, published in the November 2006 issue of the "Journal of Nutrition," found no difference in LDL or HDL concentrations between the flaxseed oil group and the placebo group.

May Still Protect Heart

Flaxseed oil may not reduce cholesterol, but it may still benefit your heart, according to a study published in the January 2006 edition of "The Journal of Nutrition." Your body can convert ALA to other beneficial fats, such as EPA and DHA, which help protect the heart. Researchers conducted a small, randomized, double-blind trial to examine whether flaxseed oil can increase heart-protective fats. African-American participants took 3 grams of flaxseed oil daily for 12 weeks. The results showed a 60-percent increase in EPA and a 25-percent rise in DHA, compared to the placebo group.

Getting More Flax in Your Diet

Flaxseeds and flaxseed oil are beneficial. Add flaxseed, rich in fiber, and flaxseed oil to your diet. To reap the most benefits, purchase ground flaxseed or use a dedicated coffee grinder to grind it before consumption. Add ground flaxseed to smoothies and yogurt. You can also purchase flaxseed oil. You'll need to keep it refrigerated. Delicate and with a low burn point, it's not a suitable cooking oil. Instead, use it as a finishing oil to drizzle over meat, fish, poultry or salad.

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