We also cover the possible risks of using flaxseed oil.
What is flaxseed oil?
Flaxseed oil may reduce cholesterol and fight cancer.
Flaxseed oil comes from ripened flaxseeds that manufacturers have cold pressed to extract the oil. Another name for flaxseed oil is linseed oil.
Flaxseed oil is commercially available in both capsule and liquid form. It contains a type of omega-3 fatty acid called alpha-linolenic acid (ALA).
The body uses ALA from flaxseed oil and converts it in small amounts to other fatty acids, including docosahexaenoic acid and eicosapentaenoic acid.
Omega-3 fatty acids are vital to a person's physical and mental health.
Benefits of flaxseed oil
Although scientists have conducted more research into flaxseed than flaxseed oil, some studies into the oil do show promising results.
The possible benefits of flaxseed oil include:
Similar to flaxseed, flaxseed oil may help lower cholesterol levels. The ALA in flaxseed oil might play a role in decreasing low-density lipoprotein (LDL), or "bad," cholesterol.
In one small study involving 15 adults, the participants consumed either flaxseed oil or corn oil once per day with dinner.
Researchers measured the participants' cholesterol levels at the start of the study and again 12 weeks later.
Those who consumed the corn oil had no change in their cholesterol levels, while those who consumed the flaxseed oil had a significant decrease in LDL.
Flaxseed oil may help fight certain types of cancer. Although much more research is needed to draw a definite conclusion, some animal studies are encouraging.
One study on mice with lung tumors found that those that consumed a 10 percent flaxseed diet had fewer tumors compared with those in the control group.
Researchers have also studied effects of flaxseed and flaxseed oil on other types of cancer.
Treating atopic dermatitis
Flaxseed oil may also have benefits for the skin and hair, such as reducing some of the symptoms of atopic dermatitis. Atopic dermatitis is a type of eczema, which is a long-term condition that causes red and itchy skin.
One study looked at the effect of flaxseed oil consumption on mice with dermatitis. After 3 weeks, the mice had decreased dermatitis symptoms, such as redness, swelling, and itching.
Reducing diabetes risk
One study involved 25 people who had prediabetes. These participants were either women experiencing menopause or men who were overweight. They consumed either 13 grams (g) or 26 g of flaxseed daily for 12 weeks.
After 12 weeks, those who consumed 13 g of flaxseed had a decreased blood sugar levels. Those who ate higher doses of flaxseed did not experience any changes.
Researchers are not sure why the high-dose group did not have any changes. While flaxseed oil may have a positive effect in people with prediabetes, larger and more comprehensive studies are needed to make firm conclusions.
In one meta-analysis, flaxseed and its derivatives decreased circulating C-reactive protein, which is a marker of inflammation. However, these results were only present in adults who were obese.
Adverse effects of flaxseed oil can include gas and bloating.
According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, it is usually safe to consume flaxseed oil in limited amounts.
Minor adverse effects are possible depending on the dose and the person's individual reaction. Possible adverse effects include:
There is little information on whether or not flaxseed oil is safe to consume while pregnant or breastfeeding.
The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) do not regulate flaxseed oil as a dietary supplement.
If someone wants to take flaxseed oil for a specific health condition, it is best to talk to a doctor first to make sure there are no possible interactions with their current medications or treatments.
A doctor may recommend stopping using flaxseed several weeks before surgery.
How to use flaxseed oil
Flaxseed oil is sensitive to light and heat, so it is best to buy it in an opaque or dark glass bottle to protect it from the light and store it in a cool, dark place.
The taste of flaxseed oil is mild. People can drink a spoonful straight or incorporate it into dips and sauces.
People can also use flaxseed oil instead of other oils or butter for cooking. Flaxseed oil is sensitive to heat, so cooking with it will change the nutritional properties.
For those who do not want to add flaxseed oil to food, it is also available in capsule form as a supplement.
Flaxseed oil does not have the same nutritional value as whole flaxseeds. However, it is still a good source of ALA, which is one type of omega-3 fatty acid. Adverse effects are rare and typically mild.
Incorporating flaxseed oil into a healthful diet is fairly simple. It provides an omega-3 boost and may have some additional benefits, such as decreasing cholesterol and fighting inflammation.
Flaxseed oil supplements are available in some health food stores and online.