- What other names is Alpha-linolenic Acid known by?
- What is Alpha-linolenic Acid?
- How does Alpha-linolenic Acid work?
- Are there safety concerns?
- Dosing considerations for Alpha-linolenic Acid.
Acide Alpha-Linolénique, Ácido Alfa Linolénico, Acide Gras Essentiel, ALA, Acide Linolénique, Acide Gras N3, Acide Gras Oméga 3, Acide Gras Polyinsaturé Oméga 3, Acide Gras Polyinsaturé N3, Essential Fatty Acid, Linolenic Acid, LNA, N-3 Fatty Acid, N-3 Polyunsaturated Fatty Acid, Omega 3, Omega 3 Fatty Acids, Omega-3, Omega-3 Fatty Acids, Omega-3 Polyunsaturated Fatty Acid.
Alpha-linolenic acid is an essential omega-3 fatty acid. It is called "essential" because it is needed for normal human growth and development. Nuts, such as walnuts, are good sources of alpha-linolenic acid. It is also found in vegetable oils such as flaxseed (linseed) oil, canola (rapeseed) oil, and soybean oil, as well as in red meat and dairy products.
Alpha-linolenic acid is popular for preventing and treating diseases of the heart and blood vessels. It is used to prevent heart attacks, lower high blood pressure, lower cholesterol, and reverse "hardening of the blood vessels" (atherosclerosis). There is some evidence that alpha-linolenic acid from dietary sources might be effective for all these uses except lowering cholesterol. Not enough is known yet to be able to rate alpha-linolenic acid's effect on high cholesterol.
Alpha-linolenic acid is used to treat rheumatoid arthritis (RA), multiple sclerosis (MS), lupus, diabetes, renal disease, ulcerative colitis, and Crohn's disease. It is also used to prevent pneumonia.
You have probably heard a lot about other omega-3 fatty acids such as EPA and DHA, which are found in fish oil. Be careful. Not all omega-3 fatty acids act the same way in the body. Alpha-linolenic acid may not have the same benefits as EPA and DHA.
Possibly Effective for...
- Reducing the risk of hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis). High dietary intake of alpha-linolenic acid seems to reduce the "plaque" in arteries serving the heart. Plaque is the fatty build-up that characterizes atherosclerosis.
- Reducing the risk of heart disease and heart attacks. High DIETARY intake of alpha-linolenic acid over a period of 6 years seems to reduce the risk of a first heart attack by as much as 59% in both men and women. Increasing DIETARY intake of alpha-linolenic acid by 1.0-1.2 grams per day appears to decrease the risk of death due to heart disease by 20% or more in people with or without existing heart disease. It is not known if alpha-linolenic acid supplements have these same benefits. Some research suggests alpha-linolenic acid has a greater effect on coronary heart disease when intake of fish oils is low.
- High blood pressure. Eating a diet high in alpha-linolenic acid seems to reduce risk of hypertension by about a third.
- Pneumonia. Eating a diet high in alpha-linolenic acid seems to reduce the risk of getting pneumonia.
Insufficient Evidence to Rate Effectiveness for...
- Prostate cancer. There is contradictory evidence about the role of alpha-linolenic acid in prostate cancer. Some research suggests that high dietary intake of alpha-linolenic acid might increase the risk of getting prostate cancer. But other research finds no increased risk or even a slight decreased risk. Reasons for the conflicting results are not clear, but the source of alpha-linolenic acid seems to be important. Alpha-linolenic acid from dairy and meat sources has been positively associated with prostate cancer. Alpha-linolenic acid from plant sources, such as flaxseed, does not appear to affect prostate cancer risk.
- Lung infections in children. Preliminary clinical research suggests that alpha-linolenic acid, in combination with linoleic acid, might reduce the number of respiratory infections in children.
- Crohn's disease..
- High cholesterol.
- Kidney disease.
- Multiple sclerosis.
- Rheumatoid arthritis (RA).
- Skin diseases.
- Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE).
- Other conditions.
Alpha-linolenic acid is thought to decrease the risk of heart disease by helping to maintain normal heart rhythm and heart pumping. It might also reduce blood clots. Although alpha-linolenic acid seems to benefit the cardiovascular system and might reduce the risk of heart disease, research to date does not show it has a significant effect on cholesterol levels.
Alpha-linolenic acid is LIKELY SAFE for most adults when used in amounts found in foods. There isn't enough information to know if it is safe in higher amounts. Alpha-linolenic acid from food sources is very well tolerated. However, it is high in calories and may cause weight gain if consumed in excess.
Special Precautions & Warnings:Pregnancy and breast-feeding: Alpha-linolenic acid is LIKELY SAFE in amounts found in food. But not enough is known about the safety of alpha-linolenic acid during pregnancy and breast-feeding when used in higher amounts than those typically found in foods. Stay on the safe side and avoid using alpha-linolenic acid supplements.
Prostate cancer. Do not take alpha-linolenic acid supplements if you have prostate cancer or are at high risk for getting prostate cancer (e.g., you have a father or brother with prostate cancer). There is some evidence that alpha-linolenic acid might increase the chance of getting prostate cancer.
The following doses have been studied in scientific research:
- For prevention of coronary heart disease and related events like chest pain or a heart attack: Approximately 1.2-2 grams per day from dietary sources seems to be associated with the greatest benefit.
- For prevention of a second heart attack or other second event in people with coronary heart disease: Approximately 1.6 grams per day as part of a Mediterranean diet appears to be beneficial.
Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database rates effectiveness based on scientific evidence according to the following scale: Effective, Likely Effective, Possibly Effective, Possibly Ineffective, Likely Ineffective, and Insufficient Evidence to Rate (detailed description of each of the ratings).
Health Solutions From Our Sponsors
Burdge, G. C., Jones, A. E., and Wootton, S. A. Eicosapentaenoic and docosapentaenoic acids are the principal products of alpha-linolenic acid metabolism in young men*. Br J Nutr 2002;88(4):355-363. View abstract.
Rashid, S., Jin, Y., Ecoiffier, T., Barabino, S., Schaumberg, D. A., and Dana, M. R. Topical omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids for treatment of dry eye. Arch.Ophthalmol. 2008;126(2):219-225. View abstract.
Allman-Farinelli MA, Hall D, Kingham K, et al. Comparison of the effects of two low fat diets with different alpha-linolenic:linoleic acid ratios on coagulation and fibrinolysis. Atherosclerosis 1999;142:159-68. View abstract.
Ascherio A, Rimm EB, Giovannucci EL, et al. Dietary fat and risk of coronary heart disease in men: cohort follow up study in the United States. BMJ 1996;313:84-90. View abstract.
Barceló-Coblijn G, Murphy EJ. Alpha-linolenic acid and its conversion to longer chain n-3 fatty acids: benefits for human health and a role in maintaining tissue n-3 fatty acid levels. Prog Lipid Res. 2009 Nov;48(6):355-74. View abstract.
Bemelmans WJ, Muskiet FA, Feskens EJ, et al. Associations of alpha-linolenic acid and linoleic acid with risk factors for coronary heart. Eur J Clin Nutr 2000;54:865-71. View abstract.
Brouwer IA, Geleijnse JM, Klaasen VM, Smit LA, Giltay EJ, de Goede J, Heijboer AC, Kromhout D, Katan MB. Effect of alpha linolenic acid supplementation on serum prostate specific antigen (PSA): results from the alpha omega trial. PLoS One. 2013 Dec 11;8(12):e81519. View abstract.
Brouwer IA, Katan MB, Zock PL. Dietary alpha-linolenic acid is associated with reduced risk of fatal coronary heart disease, but increased prostate cancer risk: a meta-analysis. J Nutr 2004;134:919-22. View abstract.
Chavarro JE, Stampfer MJ, Li H, et al. A prospective study of polyunsaturated fatty acid levels in blood and prostate cancer risk. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev 2007;16:1364-70. View abstract.
Christensen JH, Christensen MS, Toft E, et al. Alpha-linolenic acid and heart rate variability. Nutr Metab Cardiovasc Dis 2000;10:57-61. View abstract.
Colditz GA. Changing dietary patterns and cancer prevention: alpha-linolenic acid health risks and benefits. Cancer Causes Control 2000;11:677-8.
Connor WE. Alpha-linolenic acid in health and disease. Am J Clin Nutr 1999;69:827-8. View abstract.
Connor WE. Importance of n-3 fatty acids in health and disease. Am J Clin Nutr 2000;71:171S-5S. View abstract.
Crawford M, Galli C, Visioli F, et al. Role of Plant-Derived Omega-3 Fatty Acids in Human Nutrition. Ann Nutr Metab 2000;44:263-5. View abstract.
de Deckere EAM, Korver O, Verschuren PM, Katan MB. Health aspects of fish and n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids from plant and marine origin. Eur J Clin Nutr 1998;52:749-53. View abstract.
de Lorgeril M, Renaud S, Mamelle N, et al. Mediterranean alpha-linolenic acid-rich diet in secondary prevention of coronary heart disease. Lancet 1994;343:1454-9. View abstract.
De Stefani E, Deneo-Pellegrini H, Boffetta P, et al. Alpha-linolenic acid and risk of prostate cancer: a case-control study in Uruguay. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev 2000;9:335-8. View abstract.
Djousse L, Arnett DK, Carr JJ, et al. Dietary linolenic acid is inversely associated with calcified atherosclerotic plaque in the coronary arteries: the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute Family Heart Study. Circulation 2005;111:2921-6. View abstract.
Djousse L, Arnett DK, Pankow JS, et al. Dietary linolenic acid is associated with a lower prevalence of hypertension in the NHLBI Family Heart Study. Hypertension 2005;45:368-73. View abstract.
Djousse L, Rautaharju PM, Hopkins PN, et al. Dietary linolenic acid and adjusted QT and JT intervals in the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute Family Heart study. J Am Coll Cardiol 2005;45:1716-22. View abstract.
Eritsland J. Safety considerations of polyunsaturated fatty acids. Am J Clin Nutr 2000;71:197S-201S. View abstract.
Finnegan YE, Howarth D, Minihane AM, et al. Plant and marine derived (n-3) polyunsaturated fatty acids do not affect blood coagulation and fibrinolytic factors in moderately hyperlipidemic humans. J Nutr 2003;133:2210-3.. View abstract.
Finnegan YE, Minihane AM, Leigh-Firbank EC, et al. Plant- and marine-derived n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids have differential effects on fasting and postprandial blood lipid concentrations and on the susceptibility of LDL to oxidative modification in moderately hyperlipidemic subjects. Am J Clin Nutr 2003;77:783-95. View abstract.
Food and Nutrition Board, Institute of Medicine. Dietary Reference Intakes for Energy, Carbohydrate, Fiber, Fat, Fatty Acids, Cholesterol, Protein, and Amino Acids (Micronutrients). Washington, DC: National Academy Press, 2005. Available at: www.nap.edu/books/10490/html/.
Freeman VL, Meydani M, Yong S, et al. Prostatic levels of fatty acids and the histopathology of localized prostate cancer. J Urol 2000;164:2168-72. View abstract.
Freese R, Mutanen M. Alpha-linolenic acid and marine long-chain n-3 fatty acids differ only slightly in their effects on hemostatic factors in healthy subjects. Am J Clin Nutr 1997;66:591-8. View abstract.
Fu YQ, Zheng JS, Yang B, Li D. Effect of individual omega-3 fatty acids on the risk of prostate cancer: a systematic review and dose-response meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies. J Epidemiol. 2015;25(4):261-74. View abstract.
Gann PH, Hennekens CH, Sacks FM, et al. Prospective study of plasma fatty acids and risk of prostate cancer. J Natl Cancer Inst 1994;86:281-6. View abstract.
Gibson RA, Makrides M. n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid requirements of term infants. Am J Clin Nutr 2000;71:251S-5S. View abstract.
Giovannucci E, Rimm EB, Colditz GA, et al. A prospective study of dietary fat and risk of prostate cancer. J Natl Cancer Inst 1993;85:1571-9. View abstract.
Harvei S, Bjerve KS, Tretli S, et al. Prediagnostic level of fatty acids in serum phospholipids: omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids and the risk of prostate cancer. Int J Cancer 1997;71:545-51. View abstract.
Hooper L, Thompson RL, Harrison RA, et al. Omega 3 fatty acids for prevention and treatment of cardiovascular disease. Cochrane Database Syst Rev 2004;(4):CD003177. View abstract.
Hu FB, Stampfer MJ, Manson JE, et al. Dietary intake of alpha-linolenic acid and risk of fatal ischemic heart disease among women. Am J Clin Nutr 1999;69:890-7. View abstract.
Kew S, Banerjee T, Minihane AM, et al. Lack of effect of foods enriched with plant- or marine-derived n-3 fatty acids on human immune function. Am J Clin Nutr 2003;77:1287-95.. View abstract.
Klein V, Chajes V, Germain E, et al. Low alpha-linolenic acid content of adipose breast tissue is associated with an increased risk of breast cancer. Eur J Cancer 2000;36:335-40. View abstract.
Kolonel LN, Nomura AM, Cooney RV. Dietary fat and prostate cancer: current status. J Natl Cancer Inst 1999;91:414-28. View abstract.
Laaksonen DE, Laukkanen JA, Niskanen L, et al. Serum linoleic and total polyunsaturated fatty acids in relation to prostate and other cancers: a population-based cohort study. Int J Cancer 2004;111:444-50.. View abstract.
Leitzmann MF, Stampfer MJ, Michaud DS, et al. Dietary intake of n-3 and n-6 fatty acids and the risk of prostate cancer. Am J Clin Nutr 2004;80:204-16. View abstract.
Li D, Sinclair A, Wilson A, et al. Effect of dietary alpha-linolenic acid on thrombotic risk factors in vegetarian men. Am J Clin Nutr 1999;69:872-82. View abstract.
Merchant AT, Curhan GC, Rimm EB, et al. Intake of n-6 and n-3 fatty acids and fish and risk of community-acquired pnemonia in US men. Am J Clin Nutr 2005;82:668-74. View abstract.
Mozaffarian D, Ascherio A, Hu FB, et al. Interplay between different polyunsaturated fatty acids and risk of coronary heart disease in men. Circulation 2005;111:157-64. View abstract.
Newcomer LM, King IB, Wicklund KG, Stanford JL. The association of fatty acids with prostate cancer risk. Prostate 2001;47:262-8. View abstract.
Pan A, Chen M, Chowdhury R, Wu JH, Sun Q, Campos H, Mozaffarian D, Hu FB. a-Linolenic acid and risk of cardiovascular disease: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Am J Clin Nutr. 2012 Dec;96(6):1262-73. View abstract.
Pang D, Allman-Farinelli MA, Wong T, et al. Replacement of linoleic acid with alpha-linolenic acid does not alter blood lipids in normolipidaemic men. Br J Nutr 1998;80:163-7. View abstract.
Pedersen JI, Ringstad J, Almendingen K, et al. Adipose tissue fatty acids and risk of myocardial infarction-a case-control study. Eur J Clin Nutr 2000;54:618-25. View abstract.
Ramon JM, Bou R, Romea S, et al. Dietary fat intake and prostate cancer risk: a case-control study in Spain. Cancer Causes Control 2000;11:679-85. View abstract.
Simopoulos AP, Leaf A, Salem N. Workshop statement on the essentiality of and recommended dietary intakes for Omega-6 and Omega-3 fatty acids. Prostaglandins Leukot Essent Fatty Acids 2000;63:119-21. View abstract.
Simopoulos AP. Essential fatty acids in health and chronic disease. Am J Clin Nutr 1999;70:560S-9S. View abstract.
Venuta A, Spano C, Laudizi L, et al. Essential fatty acids: the effects of dietary supplementation among children with recurrent respiratory infections. J Int Med Res 1996;24:325-30.. View abstract.