Alpha-linolenic acid:

Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) is an omega-3, essential fatty acid that can be used for preventing and treating diseases of the heart and blood vessels.

Updated: October 7, 2021

Alpha-linolenic acid:

Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) is an omega-3, essential fatty acid that is found in many seeds and oils, including flaxseed, walnuts, chia, hemp and many common vegetable oils.

Some facts about Alpha-linolenic acid:


  • Alpha-linolenic acid can be used for preventing and treating diseases of the heart and blood vessels.
  • Heart attacks can be prevented, high blood pressure can be lowered, cholesterol can be lowered and hardening of the blood vessels called atherosclerosis can be reversed.
  • Disease like rheumatoid arthritis (RA), lupus, diabetes, renal disease, multiple sclerosis (MS), ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease can be treated by using Alpha-linolenic acid.
  • It can also be used to prevent pneumonia.
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), headache related to migraine, skin cancer, depression and allergic and inflammatory conditions such as psoriasis and eczema can be hronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), migraine headache, skin cancer, depression, and allergic and inflammatory conditions such as psoriasis and eczema.
  • Alpha-linolenic acid may not provide the same benefits as other omega-3 fatty acids such as EPA and DHA.
  • The risk of heart disease can be decreased by maintaining normal heart rhythm and heart pumping by Alpha-linolenic acid. It might also help reduce blood clots.
  • Although alpha-linolenic acid is beneficial for the cardiovascular system and may help reduce the risk of heart disease, it does not have a significant effect on cholesterol levels.
  • Flaxseeds and flaxseed oil, canola oil, soybeans and soybean oil, pumpkin seeds and pumpkin seed oil, perilla seed oil, tofu, walnuts and walnut oil are some of the dietary sources of alpha-linolenic acid.
  • Flaxseed contains about 2.2 g per tbsp of alpha-linolenic acid where as the content is 1.3 g per tbsp in canola oil.
  • Flaxseed oil contains about 8.5 g per tbsp and English walnuts contains about 0.7 g per tbsp tbsp of alpha-linolenic acid.
    

Uses & Effectiveness of Alpha-linolenic acid:


  • The plaque which is the fatty build-up that characterizes atherosclerosis, in arteries serving the heart can be reduced by a high dietary intake of alpha-linolenic acid.
  • The risk of a first heart attack can be reduced by 59 percent in both men and women by taking a high dietary intake of alpha-linolenic acid over a period of si years .
  • The risk of death due to heart disease can be reduced by 20 percent or more in people with or without existing heart disease by increasing dietary intake of alpha-linolenic acid by 1.0-1.2 grams per day.
  • The risk of hypertension can be reduced by about a third by eating a diet high in alpha-linolenic acid.
  • The risk of getting pneumonia can be reduced by eating a diet high in alpha-linolenic acid.
  • The risk of getting prostate cancer can be increased by high dietary intake of alpha-linolenic acid. However, Alpha-linolenic acid from plant sources, such as flaxseed, does not seems to affect prostate cancer risk.
  • Alpha-linolenic acid from dairy and meat sources are positively associated with prostate cancer.
  • The number of respiratory infections in children can be reduced by using a combination of alpha-linolenic acid with linoleic acid.
  • Alpha-linolenic acid can be effective for rheumatoid arthritis (RA), lupus, diabetes, renal disease, multiple sclerosis (MS), ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease.  
  • Supplements of omega-3 fatty acid, particularly perilla seed oil, which is rich in alpha-linolenic acid may help decrease inflammation and improve lung function in some people with asthma.
  • ALA is associated with improvements in dry eye because of corticosteroids.
  • The risk of macular degeneration can be increased by diets rich in alpha-linolenic acid.
  • Side Effects of Alpha-linolenic acid:
  • Alpha-linolenic acid is likely safe when taken from a dietary source as alpha-linolenic acid from food sources is very well tolerated. However, it may cause weight gain if consumed in excess as it is high in calories.

Precautions & Warnings of Alpha-linolenic acid:


  • Alpha-linolenic acid is likely safe in pregnancy and breast-feeding when consumed in amounts found in food. However, avoid using alpha-linolenic acid supplements and the food containing it in higher amounts to stay on safe side.
  • Don't take alpha-linolenic acid supplements if you have high levels of triglycerides as it can make the condition worse.
  • Alpha-linolenic acid supplements should not be taken if you have prostate cancer or are at high risk for getting prostate cancer as it might increase the chance of getting prostate cancer.
  • Always look for oil bottled in light-resistant containers, refrigerated and marked with an expiration date as the active ingredients in products with alpha-linolenic acid can be destroyed by exposing them to air, heat or light. These oils are more beneficial when used in salad dressings and dips rather than cooking.
  • The supplements should be taken only under the supervision of your health care provider because of the potential for side effects and interactions with medications.
  • Stop taking omega-3 fatty acid supplements before surgery as it poses a risk of increased bleeding. You should inform your surgeon in advance that you have been taking the supplements.
  • People with diabetes or schizophrenia should get omega-3 fatty acids from foods rich in EPA and DHA as they may not be able to convert alpha-linolenic acid to EPA and DHA.

Dosing of Alpha-linolenic acid:


  • Approximately 1.2-2 grams per day from dietary sources is recommended for prevention of coronary heart disease and related issues like chest pain or a heart attack.
  • Approximately 1.6 grams per day as part of a Mediterranean diet can be be beneficial for prevention of a second heart attack or other second event in people with coronary heart disease.

Possible Interactions of Alpha-linolenic acid:

  • The effects of blood-thinning medications such as warfarin (Coumadin), clopidogrel (Plavix) and aspirin can be increased and the risk of bleeding will raise with ALA.
  • A group of cholesterol lowering medications known as statins work better with more omega-3 fatty acids in your diet.


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