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Comparison of Flax Oil vs. Fish Oil and Borage Oil: Are You Lacking the Enzyme to Digest Flax Oil?

New research reveals millions of Americans are deficient in the vital digestive enzyme called D6D (delta-6 desaturase) required to convert flax oil into EPA and GLA, the two nutrients that fight inflammation. Unlike flax seed oil, borage and fish oils do not require that problematic enzyme, and are fast replacing flax oil among informed dieters.

According to at least one popular diet web site, millions of dieters around the world may be using the wrong oil on their salads, or taking the wrong omega-3 dietary supplement pill.

For 9,000 years, people have been growing flax for food. Popular menus include pouring flax seed oil over salads, eating the seed as a grain in breads or hot cereals, adding it to soups and vegetables, or swallowing big capsules of the ancient vegetable oil.

The idea was to get nutrients called EPA, DHA, and GLA from the essential omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids flax contains. The problem is that to get GLA, EPA and DHA from flax, you need a special digestive enzyme called delta-6 desaturase or D6D. And, guess what? The news from is that in many cases only young, healthy people make enough of the enzyme to do the conversion from flax oil into these special nutrients that people are looking for. And, a large percentage of people are now known to be deficient in this enzyme from birth.

Furthermore, the D6D enzyme is very fragile. It is often blocked by other things people are eating or doing. Alcohol from wine and beer or whisky blocks it. Smoking and chewing tobacco products block it.

Eating lots of omega-6 polyunstaturated or saturated fats block it or use it up quickly. Stress blocks it. A long list of activities and dietary products will block D6D, even if people do make it and are not completely "deficient". If it is blocked this way, then these people are essentially deficient as far as its ability to convert flax oil into GLA or EPA nutrients.

Interested in Baldness,
Alopecia or Hair Loss?
Read the latest scientific research about alopecia, thinning hair, baldness and hair loss -- and their relation to inflammation and insulin resistance:
    • Inflammation & Alopecia
    • Inflammation & Baldness
    • Inflammation & Hair Loss
    • Insulin Resistance & Alopecia
    • Insulin Resistance & Baldness
    • Insulin Resistance & Hair Loss
What are all these initials and why do people want them? EPA, DHA and GLA are made from "essential fatty acids" - LA and LNA - called essential because your body can't make them by itself. You must eat foods (or take supplements) from outside sources containing either Lenoleic Acid (LA) or Alpha Lenolenic Acid (LNA). Flax seed oil contains both of these.

LA: Linoleic Acid
LNA: Linolenic Acid

GLA: Gamma Linolenic Acid
EPA: Eicosapentaenoic Acid
DHA: Docosahexaenoic Acid

And, if you can properly digest these essential fats, then you get two wonderful health boosters for your body called EG1 and EG3 (prostaglandin series-1 and series-3). These are terrific aids in fighting inflammation. And, when you reduce inflammation, you help your body prevent major diseases like heart disease, stroke, cancer, diabetes and many more.

What if you can't digest the flax seed oil? Well, you will end up making too much of something called EG2 (prostaglandin series-2). As you might guess, this actually INCREASES your levels of inflammation, and therefore increases your risk for all the major diseases associated with inflammation -- and that's a big list of diseases, as scientists are reporting these days. The site lists dozens of these associated diseases, adding up to possibly 73% of all the deaths each year in the U.S.

Furthermore, new research has implicated inflammation and insulin resistance in dozens of "minor" conditions that make us feel unattractive and uncomfortable -- including such conditions as alopecia, hair loss, baldness, thinning hair, excema, skin tags, alopecia areata, alopecia totalis, alopecia universalis, etc. For people affected with these conditions, managing their inflammation and insulin resistance levels might slow or even prevent thinning hair or alopecia. In recent studies linked to the right in the yellow box, you can read about slowing or preventing hair loss and postponing baldness by reducing inflammation.

So, for years people have been buying flax oil to get vital nutrients. And all this time they may have actually been making matters worse. Or, at least many people have not been improving their health, despite their efforts.

Here is the break down -- The issue is that the Linoleic Acid flax seed oil contains has to be converted into Gamma Linolenic Acid using Delta-6 Desaturase D6D enzyme. And D6D is made inoperative by high levels of insulin (duh), alcohol, pollutants, and high levels of Omega-6 Fatty acids from vegetable oils and fried foods, trans-fatty acids, etc.

Also, D6D becomes less available anyway as we age, and there is evidently a genetic mutation that makes people develop diabeties (by family groups of course). That mutation is basically simply a change in the code for one chromosome in microsomal DNA that makes people not as capable of making D6D as "normal" people.

It is felt that this mutation is probably the true cause of the familial component in the genesis of type-2 diabetes, and naturally likely of most inflammatory disease and metabolic syndrome.

A simple digestive enzyme deficiency, which is possibly inherited among up to 40-50% of people or sometimes even more in some regions (apparently about 90% of the Pima Indians in Arizona, for example). Estimates vary, but the inability to use D6D is very common. So, a simple digestive enzyme can be a major cause involved in many of our worst diseases. Who'd have thought it?

OMEGA-3 Alpha-Linolenic Acid LNA (part of flax oil) + D6D -> ... -> Eicosapentaenoic Acid EPA -> Series-3 Prostaglandins [inflammation fighters]

OMEGA-6 Linoleic Acid LA (in many vegetable oils, incl. flax oil) + D6D -> ... -> Gamma Lenolenic Acid GLA -> ... -> Dihomogamma Linolenic Acid DGLA -> Series-1 Prostaglandins [inflammation fighters]

NOTE that D6D is required to generate both of these this way, from vegetable oils, and it is often not available for diabetes and many pre-diabetics or metabolic syndrome, insulin resistant folks.

Incidentally, if you eat the wrong stuff and D6D stops working, then you get Arachidonic Acid (AA), which leads to making Series-2 Prostaglandins... those are the bad guys involved in most inflammatory disease states.

Everybody affected by most of the major types of disease in the U.S. usually wants to boost Series-1 and 3 Prostaglandins, and lessen Series-2. We're manipulating our diet to get that to happen. That's most of our strategy. There's more, i.e. burning more with exercise, eating less etc.

SOLUTION? The idea is to make an end run around the missing or not-working D6D issue. Fish oils give you EPA and DHA with needing to be converted by D6D. Borage oil gives you GLA with using D6D. So the answer is simply to add them into your diet. (1) Take Borage Oil (GLA), which gives you GLA without needing D6D (best source). Recommended daily dose is about 300mg of GLA from one 1,200mg oil capsule for most normal sized people - up to twice that for very large people. (2) Take Fish Oil, which gives you EPA without needing D6D (and, it is the best source). Recommended dose is about 2.4 grams a day of the total EPA and DHA in the oil you are using. That usually means about 3-4 pharmaceutical grade capsules, or up to 10 normal standard health store grade capsules. Both these oils together will get you more of the anti-inflammatory prostaglandin series-1 and series-3 molecules. And you don't get as much of the pro-inflammatory series-2 prostaglandins that would come from not being able to convert flax seed's omega-6 fatty acids into DGLA and therefore ending up with too much arachidonic acid -- whenever you're insulin resistant, inflamed or for some other reason unable to produce or use enough delta-6 desaturase D6D enzyme.

If all of that complex metabolic chemistry is confusing, just take's word for it -- while flax seed oil may not hurt you much, a much better choice for most of us would be fish and borage oils. For more information, read more about flax oil, borage oil and fish oil at the web site -- /.

Which Kinds of Fish Oil Should You Buy?

We recommend that you buy "enteric coated" capsules and also pharmaceutical grades of fish oil, which are more purified and concentrated than usual. Enteric coatings on the outside of the capsule help prevent the fish burps that uncoated capsules may cause. Be sure to eat at least a few bites of food when taking your fish oil daily. Immediately before or following a meal is a good idea. Most fish oils capsules deliver 180mg of EPA and 120mg of DHA, totalling 300mg of essential fatty acids. Concentrated capsules (with more of the water removed) may deliver 100% more per capusle, about double strength, which let you take the recommended 3.0 to 4.0 grams of EPA/DHA per day with only 6 capsules instead of 12 from less concentrated kinds. Either way, you should take enough fish oil to achieve a total EPA/DHA of about 3 grams (3,000mg) to 4 grams (4,000mg) per day. Don't be confused about the physical size of the full capsule, which may be anything from 1,000 to 1,400mg of "fish oil". Fish oil itself consists of several ingredients, only about 1/3 of which consists of the true long chain omega-3 that your body requires. This long chain omega-3 comes in two forms called EPA and DHA. Add those up to find the total omega-3 in your fish oil The bottle we suggest below contains a "double concentrated" 600mg of EPA plus DHA inside each capsule. plus added ingredients to help your omega-3 work more efficiently for you.

Life Extension Fish Oil with Olive and Sesamin
Life Extension
Double Concentrated
Fish Oil
with Olive &
Sesame Extracts
120 Capsules
about $22.49

20 Day Supply
for one adult
taking 6/day
We suggest you consider Super Omega-3 Epa/Dha With Sesame Lignans & Olive Fruit Extract Enteric Coated, 120 Count Softgels, about $22.49. This 120 capsule-bottle is a 20-day supply for one adult taking 6 capsules per day. Six capsules of this formula will deliver 600mg total EPA+DHA in each capsule, plus the synergistic olive and sesamin extracts, totalling 3.6 grams of total long chain omega-3. This meets the recommendations of the American Heart Association for people with high triglycerides. That high triglycerides group constitutes most diabetics and many people who suffer from other degenerative, metabolic diseases. Read the Scientific Statement by the American Heart Association called "Fish Consumption, Fish Oil, Omega-3 Fatty Acids, and Cardiovascular Disease", by Penny M. Kris-Etherton, PhD, RD; William S. Harris, PhD; Lawrence J. Appel, MD, MPH, published in the AHA journal Circulation, 2002 - PDF, 13 pages.

An abundance of scientific research substantiates the wide-ranging health benefits, including promoting a healthy heart, of omega-3 fatty acids in fish oil and monounsaturated fatty acids-polyphenols in olive fruit. Super Omega-3 from Life Extension uses a patented EPA/DHA extraction process that results in a pure, stable and easy-to-tolerate fish oil extract. While most fish oil is distilled to decrease contaminants such as mercury and PCBs, the Pure + fish oil used in Super Omega-3 is roduced with a patented method that purifies the oil with a highly advanced distillation process to reduce pollutants to virtually undetectable levels. The result is an improved fish oil that exceeds the standards set by international rating agencies. Sesame Lignans Enhance Fish Oil's In Vivo Effects The unstable nature of fatty acids like fish oil limits their biological efficacy in the body. Studies show that when sesame lignans are supplemented with fish oil, the beneficial effects are augmented. Sesame lignans help guard against lipid peroxidation, thereby extending the stability of DHA in the body. These lignans also direct fatty acids toward pathways which can help with inflammatory reactions. Super Omega-3 provides standardized sesame lignans to enhance the overall benefits of the improved EPA/DHA fish oil blend. New Higher Potency Standardized Olive Fruit To emulate a Mediterranean diet, Super Omega-3 provides a standardized olive fruit extract to deliver the polyphenol hydroxytyrosol, a powerful antioxidant that protects normal LDL from oxidation and counters dangerous free radicals. Research shows that a combination of olive oil and fish oil supplements helps with inflammation better than a placebo or fish oil alone.
Spring Valley Triple Strength Omega-3 Fish oil...
Spring Valley
Triple Strength
Fish Oil
about $14.07

15 Day's Supply
for one adult
taking 4/day
Another good choice is the Spring Valley - Fish Oil 1400 mg, Triple Strength, Enteric Coated, 60 Softgels, about $14.07 per bottle, about 15 day's supply at 4 capsules/day. Monthy cost: about $28.14, prices may change often (does NOT include olive extract or sesamin)

Each capsule contains 1400mg of whole fish oil, including 900mg of long-chain EPA+DHA in each softgel. While it does not contain the olive and sesamin extract ingredients, this formula is the most concentrated fish oil available without a prescription. Taking only (4) capsules per day will give you the 3.6 grams of total EPA+DHA that the American Heart Association recommends for people with high triglycerides. Metabolic syndrome and insulin resistance almost always involves high triglycerides. Two bottles of 60 capsules is enough for one adult with high triglycerides, taking 4 capsules/day for a month. This is an economical option for budget minded consumers. Like the Life Extension brand, this Spring Valley brand also is micro-filtered to remove mercury, lead, cadmium and other polutants.

Check with your doctor of course before taking this much fish oil. Fish oil supplements may affect the way some prescription drugs act in your body, requiring your doctor to change your prescriptions. Any supplement program change should be discussed with a nutritionally aware health care professional prior to making the change.

Descriptive Terms to Look for: When you see "Pharmaceutical Grade" on the label, the EPA/DHA are concentrated and the oil is purified to reflect standards usually applied to presecription drugs used by doctors. Be sure look for these very high quality products (if you can afford them -- they may cost up to twice the cost of less purified products). By contrast, terms like "concentrated", "super" or "mega" don't really mean much, other than a bit more of the water may have been removed than other brands. Also, the term "molecularly distilled" also doesn't mean much these days, since all fish oil supplements sold in the USA market and many other countries have been molecularly distilled to remove mercury. This process makes fish oils actually safer to consume than the actual fish itself.

KEYWORDS: weight loss, obesity, EPA/DHA, GLA, anti-inflammatory, cardiovascular disease, type-2 diabetes, cancer, stroke, Alzheimers, multiple sclerosis, muscular dystrophy, gamma linolenic acid, eicosapentaenoic acid, docosahexaenoic acid

About Flax Seed & Sesame Seed Lignans:** Sesame seed oil, and to a lesser extent flax seed oil, contain unique, biologically active kinds of nutrients called lignans. Some people are selling flax seed oils on the basis of their healthy lignan content. This is a controversial claim. While similar, the lignans from sesame seeds and flax seeds act differetly in the body. Theoretical studies done in laboratory test tubes show that lignans from flax (SDG, secoisolariciresinol diglucoside) are very antioxidant. Flax contains about 1-4% of these lignans. However, some studies in animals show that sesame seed lignans (called sesamin) increase vitamin-E, while flax lignans actually decrease vitamin-E in the body ― see F. Eliasson, et al, Swedish Univ. of Ag. Sciences, 2004. Taking sesame seed oils with high sesamin lignan content may be advisable, while the jury is still out on flax seeds as antioxidants. Other studies on flax seed oil do seem to show various modest health benefits, such as possible improvement in heart disease risks, or perhaps in slightly lowering risks for certain cancers. These benefits may be obtained simply by eating the FDA recommended daily servings of whole grain, high fiber cereals or whole grain breads. We feel that most people suffering from inflammatory diseases should increase fibers, but decrease breads and cereals to control their insulin and blood sugar levels. You need to consider these issues carefully. Either way you get them, you DO need to get at least 40 grams of fiber per day, or perhaps more. Without bread or cereals, you would need to take supplements to get your lignan fibers. And some of this fiber should be high in lignans. Before taking flax oil supplements, we suggest that you research flax lignan and sesame lignan in our scientific health study database. Be sure to share the results of your research with your doctor before you change your diet.

** Definition of Lignan: A lignan is a chemical compound found in plants. Lignans are one of the two major classes of phytoestrogens, which are antioxidants found in a variety of plants which includes flax seeds, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, rye, soybeans, broccoli, beans, and some berries. The other class of phytoestrogens is the isoflavones. Plant lignans are polyphenolic substances derived from phenylalanine via dimerization of substituted cinnamic alcohols (see cinnamic acid) to a dibenzylbutane skeleton 2. This reaction is catalysed by oxidative enzymes and is often controlled by dirigent proteins ― from the Wikipedia.

Scientific Studies About Lignans

1. Whole sesame seed is as rich a source of mammalian lignan precursors as whole flaxseed. Authored by: Coulman KD, Liu Z, Hum WQ, Michaelides J, Thompson LU. Department of Nutritional Sciences, Faculty of Medicine, University of Toronto, Toronto, ON, Canada. Published in: Nutr Cancer. 2005;52(2):156-65.

The mammalian lignans enterolactone and enterodiol, which are produced by the microflora in the colon of humans and animals from precursors in foods, have been suggested to have potential anticancer effects. This study determined the production of mammalian lignans from precursors in food bars containing 25 g unground whole flaxseed (FB), sesame seed (SB), or their combination (FSB; 12.5 g each). In a randomized crossover study, healthy postmenopausal women supplemented their diets with the bars for 4 wk each separated by 4-wk washout periods, and urinary mammalian lignan excretion was measured at baseline and after 4 wk as a marker of mammalian lignan production. Results showed an increase with all treatments (65.1-81.0 mumol/day; P < 0.0001), which did not differ among treatments. Lignan excretion with the whole flaxseed was similar to results of other studies using ground flaxseed. An unidentified lignan metabolite was detected after consumption of SB and FSB but not of FB. Thus, we demonstrated for the first time that 1) precursors from unground whole flaxseed and sesame seed are converted by the bacterial flora in the colon to mammalian lignans and 2) sesame seed, alone and in combination with flaxseed, produces mammalian lignans equivalent to those obtained from flaxseed alone.

2. Sesamin is one of the major precursors of mammalian lignans in sesame seed (Sesamum indicum) as observed in vitro and in rats. Published in: J Nutr. 2006 Apr;136(4):906-12. Authored by: Liu Z, Saarinen NM, Thompson LU. Department of Nutritional Sciences, Faculty of Medicine, University of Toronto, Toronto, ON, M5S 3E2, Canada.

Plant lignans occur in many foods, with flaxseed presently recognized as the richest source. Some plant lignans can be converted by intestinal microbiota to the mammalian lignans, enterodiol and enterolactone, which may have protective effects against hormone-related diseases such as breast cancer. This study determined whether plant lignans in sesame seed, particularly sesamin, could be metabolized to the mammalian lignans. The total plant lignan concentration in sesame seed (2180 micromol/100 g) was higher than that in flaxseed (820 micromol/100 g). In vitro fermentation with human fecal inoculum showed conversion of sesamin to the mammalian lignans, although at a lower rate (1.1%) compared with that of secoisolariciresinol diglucoside (57.2%). However, when fed to female Sprague-Dawley rats for 10 d, sesamin (15 mg/kg body weight) and a 10% sesame seed diet resulted in greater (P < 0.05) urinary mammalian lignan excretion (3.2 and 11.2 micromol/d, respectively), than the control (< 0.05 micromol/d). We conclude that sesame seed is a rich source of mammalian lignan precursors and sesamin is one of them. From intermediate metabolites of sesamin identified in rat urine by GC-MS, a tentative metabolic pathway of sesamin to mammalian lignans is suggested.

3. Human metabolism of mammalian lignan precursors in raw and processed flaxseed. Published in: Am J Clin Nutr. 1999 Mar;69(3):549-55. Authored by: Nesbitt PD, Lam Y, Thompson LU. Department of Nutritional Sciences, Faculty of Medicine, University of Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

BACKGROUND: The mammalian lignans enterolactone and enterodiol are produced in the colon by the action of bacteria on the plant precursor secoisolariciresinol diglycoside, which is found in high concentrations in flaxseed. OBJECTIVE: Two experiments were conducted to determine 1) whether there is a dose response in urinary lignan excretion with increasing flaxseed intake, 2) whether flaxseed processing affects lignan excretion, 3) peak plasma lignan concentrations, and 4) plasma lignan concentrations after chronic supplementation. DESIGN: Nine healthy young women supplemented their diets with 5, 15, or 25 g raw or 25 g processed (muffin or bread) flaxseed for 7 d during the follicular phase of their menstrual cycles. Twenty-four-hour urine samples were collected at baseline and on the final day of supplementation. As an adjunct to the 25-g-flaxseed arm, subjects consumed the supplement for an additional day and blood and urine samples were collected at specific intervals. All blood and urine samples were analyzed for enterolactone and enterodiol by gas chromatography-mass spectroscopy. RESULTS: A dose-dependent urinary lignan response to raw flaxseed was observed (r = 0.72, P < 0.001). The processing of flaxseed as a muffin or bread did not affect the quantity of lignan excretion. Plasma lignan concentrations were greater (P < or = 0.05) than baseline by 9 h after flaxseed ingestion (29.35+/-3.69 and 51.75+/-7.49 nmol/L, respectively). The total plasma area under the curve was higher on the eighth than on the first day (1840.15+/-343.02 and 1027.15+/-95.71 nmol x h/L, respectively). CONCLUSION: Mammalian lignan production from flaxseed precursors is dependent on time and dose but not on processing.

» For More Information: Click to read about Lignans, Sesame, Flax, Phytoestrogens and Dietary Fiber in our large database of recent scientific studies.

* All information on is for educational purposes only. These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. Before changing your diet, or adding supplements to your diet, or beginning an exercise program, everyone should consult a qualified and licensed health practitioner; a physician, dietician or similar professional.

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Replace omega-6 vegetable oils with omega-9 olive oil... Eat oily fish like tuna, sardines, anchovy, salmon, herring... Beans, lentils, peas add fiber... Nine or more 3-ounce servings of fruits or vegetables per day...