What are the benefits of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA)?
What is ALA?
Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) (see Probiotics Learning Lab for glossary) is one of the fats that makes up Omega 3 polyunsaturated fatty acid, and is found in plant oils such as flaxseed, pumpkin seeds and walnut oils. Seed oils are the richest source of ALA. Some studies have shown ALA may help to maintain normal cholesterol levels.
Alpha-linolenic acid has undergone numerous clinical trials demonstrating its efficacy at helping to maintain normal cholesterol levels and cardiovascular health. Because our bodies are unable to produce ALA, it needs to be taken through food or supplementation.
Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) taken in the diet reduces cholesterol levels and inflammation - 20041
In this clinical trial, 23 participants with slightly heightened cholesterol (over 5mmol/L) were split into three groups and for 6 weeks at a time they were put on:
i. An average American diet
ii. A diet high in ALA (provided by walnut & flaxseed oils)
iii. A diet high in LA (Omega 6)
After six weeks on a single diet, they took a three week break before moving onto the next diet, until they had tried all three diets. This is known as a cross-over study. Blood measurements were taken after each diet and the results showed that six weeks of daily ALA gave an improved ratio of 'good' HDL to 'bad' LDL cholesterol and decreased inflammation compared to measurements taken after the 'average American diet'.
Alpha-linolenic acid from Camelina oil reduces LDL - 20022
68 participants with moderately high cholesterol were split into three groups to consume, over a period of six weeks, 30g daily of:
i. Camelina oil (high in ALA Omega 3)
ii. Rapeseed oil (high in Omega 6)
iii. Olive oil (high in Omega 9)
The camelina oil (ALA) was most effective LDL cholesterol.
Comparing alpha-linolenic acid to EPA & DHA from fish oil - 20063
The trial compared the effects of Omega 3 from a vegetarian source (ALA) to a fish oil (EPA & DHA). The results show that ALA had a much more positive effect on cholesterol levels compared to EPA & DHA.
National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute family heart study - 20034
The family heart health study shows that alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), irrespective of fish consumption, reduces plaque build-up in the arteries. 1575 patients were invited to fill in a questionnaire detailing their intake of ALA. Each patient also had an ultrasound looking at the level of plaque build-up in the main artery flowing to the brain. Those who consumed higher amounts of ALA in the diet had less plaque deposits compared with those who consumed low levels of ALA. The amount of fish consumed did not make a difference to the plaque build-up.
OptiBac 'For your cholesterol'
'For your cholesterol' is a natural supplement containing live cultures, and Omega 3 (ALA) to help maintain normal cholesterol levels. The ability of this particular Omega 3 to support health has been validated by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA). 'For your cholesterol' is an extensively researched supplement, safe to take on an ongoing basis and free from the side effects commonly associated with cholesterol-lowering medication.
You can purchase 'For your cholesterol' from independent health food stores and pharmacies nationwide, as well as via our online shop.
This FAQ has been answered by Kerry Beeson, BSc (Nut.Med) Nutritional Therapist.
1. Zhao et al. (2004) 'Dietary Linolenic Acid Reduces Imflammatory and Lipid Cardiovascular Risk Factors in Hypercholesterolemic Men and Women'. The Journal of Nutrition; 134: 2991-2997
2. Karvonen et al. (2002) 'Effect of Alpha Linolenic Acid-rich Camelina Sativa Oil on Serum Fatty Acid Composition and Serum Lipids in Hypercholesterolemic Subjects'. Metabolism, Vol 51, No 10 (October ); pp1253-1260.
3. Goyens PL, Mensink RP. (2006) 'Effects of Alpha Linolenic Acid Versus Those of EPA/DHA on Cardiovascular Risk Markers in Healthy Elderly Subjects'. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition; 60: 978-984.
4. Djoussé L et al. (2003) 'Dietary Linolenic Acid and Carotid Atherosclerosis: the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute Family Heart Study' , American Journal of Clinical Nutrition; 77: 819-25.