What is the nutritional and clinical significance of alpha-linolenic acid in humans?

January 1, 1992 Human Health and Nutrition Data 0 Comments

What is the nutritional and clinical significance of alpha-linolenic acid in humans?

Year: 1992
Authors: S C Cunnane.
Publication Name: Third International Congress on EFA & Eicosanoids. A. Sinclair & R. Gibson, eds. AOCS Press, Champaign, Ill.
Publication Details: Page 379.


The metabolism of ALA, with a specific focus on the health effects of flaxseed and flaxseed oil, is reviewed in this short paper. The author provides an overview of research which has shown that ALA fed to adults in the form of flaxseed or flaxseed oil, raises ALA and EPA in serum, erythrocyte and platelet lipids, but has little effect on DHA. The role of ALA in infant nutrition is a subject of debate and research continues in an attempt to establish the dietary requirement for ALA and to determine if ALA consumption alone would be sufficient to meet the n-3 fatty acid needs of both premature and full term infants. The author indicates that dietary ALA supplementation has been shown to have positive health effects independent of its conversion to EPA. These include attenuation of CHD risk factors (hypertension, hyperlipidemia, platelet aggregation, glucose tolerance); modulation of eicosanoid synthesis (cellular immune system, dermal integrity) and tumoricidal activity (cancer, immune system). The author suggests that because ALA may have clinically relevant effects on health, ALA consumption in the form of flaxseed and/or flaxseed oil may be important in the diets of individuals who do not consume animal sources (ie. fish and fish oils) of EPA. Studies by the author have indicated that flaxseed and flaxseed oil supplementation of up to 10 g/day ALA is safe for humans.

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