The Real Difference Between Fish Oil And Flaxseed Oil

Both fish oil and flaxseed oil have many health benefits and are often recommended by healthcare professionals. But how do they compare?

Fish and flaxseed oils are both high in omega-3 fatty acids, according to Healthline. We only get these essential fats from food, as our body can't make them. According to a 2018 study in Frontiers in Physiology, they were first discovered in the 1920s, and research quickly showed how beneficial they were for cardiovascular, brain, and psychological health. They were also found to be highly beneficial for the central nervous system, and a deficiency in omega-3 fatty acids was associated with depression and anxiety.

The main types of omega-3 fatty acids are eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), and alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), according to Healthline. EPA and DHA are commonly found in foods like fatty fish, while ALA is primarily found in plants. However, ALA is not bioavailable, meaning it needs to be converted to EPA and DHA in order for our bodies to actually use it. Unfortunately, only 5% of ALA gets converted to EPA and less than 0.5% gets converted to DHA. Thus, the omega-3 fatty acid content of flaxseed oil may not prove to be as beneficial as fish oil, but don't count it out just yet.

Each oil has different health benefits

Fish oil is derived from fatty fish, such as salmon, herring, mackerel, and tuna, according to Healthline. Fish oil supplements, a rich source of EPA and DHA omega-3 fatty acids, can help lower blood pressure, decrease the risk of heart disease, and boost brain health.

According to a 2014 study in the Journal of Food Science and Technology, flaxseed is one of the world's oldest crops and richest plant sources of ALA omega-3 fatty acids. It has been shown to reduce the risk of cancer and cardiovascular disease, has anti-inflammatory properties, and may relieve symptoms of menopause.

Fish and flaxseed oils are not the same, though. The fatty acids in fish oil are proven to have many more health benefits than ALA omega-3 fatty acids, according to a 2006 review in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Researchers suggest fatty acids in fish oil have the potential to reduce rates of all-cause mortality, sudden cardiac death events, and stroke. ALA omega-3 fatty acids did not show these same effects.