Alpha-linolenic acid is an essential fatty acid and the major omega-3 fatty acid found in food. Essential fatty acids are not produced by the body and must be present in the diet to maintain health. The unique biochemical structure of alpha-linolenic acid is important and helps to make it a key player in immunity, vision, cell membranes, and the production of hormonelike compounds.
The unique biochemical structure of alpha-linolenic acid is important and helps to make it a key player in immunity, vision, cell membranes, and the production of hormonelike compounds.
Plants that provide ALA include canola (rapeseed), flaxseed (linseed), soybean oil, and pumpkin. Mackerel, salmon, and walnuts are also good omega-3 fatty acid sources.
It is important to maintain an appropriate balance of omega-3 and omega-6 (another essential fatty acid) in the diet as these two substances work together to promote health. These essential fats are both examples of polyunsaturated fatty acids, or PUFAs. Omega-3 fatty acids help reduce inflammation and most omega-6 fatty acids tend to promote inflammation. An inappropriate balance of these essential fatty acids contributes to the development of disease while a proper balance helps maintain and even improve health.
Many autoimmune disorders such as lupus, certain forms of cancer, and multiple sclerosis benefit from ALA and the family of omega-3 oils. Other conditions benefited include depression, migraine headache, and diabetes.
Studies suggest that ALA and other omega-3 fatty acids may be helpful in treating a variety of conditions. The evidence is strongest for heart disease and problems that contribute to heart disease.