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Women Convert More Flax Fat to Good Fat Than Men

Omega-3 fats are considered essential fats because our body can not make them. For the most part the most valuable omega-3 fats are the longer chain fats like DHA and EPA that are nearly exclusively found in fish oils. Humans have a very limited capacity to convert smaller and less useful omega-3 fats like the ALA found in flax oil, to the more useful higher order fats EPA and DHA.

Earlier studies were really clear in showing that fish oils work far better than flax oil for controlling inflammation that is one of the corner stones of all chronic disease. That is why C Reactive Protein levels are so important in monitoring disease.

The longer fat DHA is absolutely critical for developing healthy infants. Well, it turns out that women do indeed have a better ability to produce DHA from the ALA in flax then men do. This appears to be related to the hormone estradiol, so this capability is only present in menstruating women and is likely related to a protective benefit for producing healthy children.

After saying all this I want you to understand that the difference was not large, on average equal to about 60 mg of DHA, which is the DHA present in about one half capsule of most fish oils.

So what is the bottom line here?

While I am absolutely delighted that infinite wisdom has provided a backup to protect developing fetuses, I remain ever insistent that the ideal form of omega-3 supplementation is indeed fish or cod liver oil. Makes no sense not to take the real deal when working with something so precious as optimizing health and life function. Yes, one can consume flax, but it is best consumed as freshly ground organic flax seeds and should never be used as the primary source of omega-3 fat.

American Journal of Clinical Nutrition November 2004 80(5);1167-1174

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