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Omega-3, -6 and -9 are the types of fatty acids found in flaxseed oil. Omega-3 alpha-linolenic acid and omega-6 linoleic acids are essential as the body cannot synthesise these. It is important for good health to get the right balance of these fatty acids. In Asian diets today, the ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 is significantly lower than recommended.
Most diets are high in omega-6 (mainly from cooking oils like canola, sunflower, safflower and corn oils) and lower in omega-3. Generally people need to increase their intake of omega-3 fatty acids. The common sources of omega-3 are fish and eggs. Vegetarians are particularly at risk of having low levels of omega-3 in their diets.
Essential fatty acids help to maintain the structural integrity of cell membranes and are beneficial to cell structure. A deficiency in the essential fatty acids (EFAs) can lead to dryness, scaling and redness of the skin.
EFAs may be beneficial for good heart health and the cardiovascular system. Omega-3 EFAs may also reduce platelet aggregation - the tendency of platelets in the blood to clump and stick together. This action is important for heart health.
Flaxseed oil may contribute to the reduction of inflammation by providing a building block from which anti-inflammatory substances (prostaglandins) are made. It decreases the inflammatory effects of too much omega-6 fatty acids by improving the balance of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids. The omega-9 content of flaxseed oil may also contribute to reduction of inflammation.