Flaxseed oil is a vegetable oil uniquely rich in the omega-3 family of essential fatty acids, in particular alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). It is also rich in lignans, gamma-tocopherol (an especially beneficial form of vitamin E), and other protective factors. Omega-3 fatty acids have developed a well-deserved reputation as being essential for body protection and function in a hundred different ways. It is not going too far to describe them as a general tonic against the "diseases of civilization", and for protection from the daily onslaught of junk food and chemicals. The subject is far too big for this short article. I will just focus on a few points that are most relevant to male athletes.

Flax Seed Oil: Fat Burn Oil?
An oil that can help burn fat? Is this a joke? No. Like MCT oils (medium chain triglyceride oils), there is evidence that flax oil, as a dietary fat, behaves differently in the body, metabolically. Omega-3 fats are highly-unsaturated -- more so than other fats -- and as a result they are burned much easier than other unsaturated fats (and WAY easier than saturated fats). The liver converts them into ketones very readily, and if you're up on the whole low-carb diet issue you know that ketones are one of the ways a body can harmlessly get rid of excess calories. Also, giving the liver some ready food for ketone production acts to "jump-start" the conversion of other fats to ketones. The result, for many users, is a gratifying increase in the rate of fat-burning and body repartitioning. Will Brink, a consultant to numerous top bodybuilders, has found that flax seed oil in high doses -- up to six tablespoons per day! -- accelerates bodyfat loss in pre-contest training. That's some intel from in the trenches that could be worth its weight in golden flax oil. These "real world" results are consistent, by the way, with a mass of animal studies which show that omega-3 fats stymie the development of adipose tissue, while oxidizing rapidly (i.e. they are easy to burn for energy). Omega-3 fats also oppose the action of arachidonic acid in promoting fat development, and measurably reduce fat mass in animals. But wait, there's more. Flax oil contains compounds called lignans which can oppose the effects of excess estrogen -- sometimes even helping to reduce gynecomastia. (Users of high-dose aromatizable steroids out there: listen up!) Flaxseed oil has been found to reduce estrogen-dependent breast cancer proliferation, by an estrogen-blocking action not unlike the drug tamoxifen.

Why You Should Supplement

The truth is that the Standard American Diet (S.A.D.) is woefully deficient in omega-3 fats. Flaxseed oil was abandoned in commercial baking and production many years ago in exchange for cheaper unhealthy alternatives. Good sources of omega-3s such as pecans and walnuts are not consumed in significant quantities. Oily fish is the most reliable source, but not everyone eats fish. A convenient and practical way to get these vital fatty acids is to use a tablespoon or so of flax oil, daily. Another important fact is that the Standard American Diet is brimming with omega-6 fatty acids -- another class of unsaturates from vegetable foods and oils.

Omega-6s are essential nutrients
The only problem is that almost no one gets too little of them! They are abundantly supplied in the typical diet. Indeed, we get too much of them. The American diet gives us a gross overload of omega-6s relative to omega-3s. And it is that ratio that is about as critical as the absolute amounts. Even if you're getting plenty of omega-3, if you're consuming even more omega-6, you will wind up short. That's because the two classes (omega-6 and omega-3) are competitive; they crowd each other out. This overload of omega-6s relative to omega-3s is now thought to be involved in inflammation, cognitive deficits, depression, and many other disorders of mind and body. It might also be this ratio that determines or predisposes to bodyfat gains (see section above). Again, the only practical way to restore balance, for most people, is to supplement with either flax oil or fish oil (or better yet, a combination of both).

Flax oil has the advantage of being a rich source of the protective lignans, as well (while fish oil has none). Whole flax seed and flax oil are superfoods that should be in everyone's kitchen.
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