A recent article in the Globe & Mail – “Fish and flaxseed may prevent diabetes – are Omega-3s miracle fats?” [Leslie Beck, May 25, 2011] reports two studies from the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. The first study found that in older men and women, high levels of DHA and EPA (combined) reduced the risk of developing diabetes, and high levels of ALA reduced the risk even more. The second study found that ALA intake strongly protected against diabetes, while Omega-3 intake from fish did not have an effect. This may support a link between ALA and improved insulin sensitivity. On the other hand, DHA and EPA are linked to reduced blood clots, inflammation and improved heart health. The article also suggests that eating fried fish had no health improvement effects than baked or broiled fish. Since plant-based omega-3s (ALA) can also be converted in the body to DHA and EPA (though the conversion rate is said to be low, and variable), ALA intake can also be expected to have similar heart benefits. I find that eating freshly ground flaxseed with granola in the morning (1/4 cup) is reasonably tasty, and the fibre in flaxseed is also supposed to be beneficial. However, I find the taste of straight flaxseed oil (by the spoon, or in salad dressings) not to my liking at all. To increase my flaxseed oil intake, I have taken to gel capsules, which are relatively inexpensive.
Flaxseed oil oxidizes very quickly over time and when heated. I suggest grinding a small amount of fresh flaxseed just before eating. While ground flaxseed has a pleasant, nutty taste, baked flaxseed products will likely provide reduced Omega-3 benefits because of the exposure to heat while baking. Thus the suggestions in the New York Times article on increasing flaxseed intake (see link below) may not be the best for increasing ALA intake, although the flaxseed fibre is still beneficial, and unaffected by heat.
- Well: How to Add Flaxseed to Your Diet (well.blogs.nytimes.com)