Text Size: A A A

Alpha-Linolenic Acid (ALA)


Peer Reviewed

The Basics

Alpha-Linolenic Acid (ALA) is a plant-based fatty acid the body uses for energy. It is a source substance to omega-3 fatty acids. The omega-3 fatty acids are beneficial to the heart by regulating rate, blood pressure, and dilation of blood vessels thereby facilitating blood flow throughout the body, especially the brain (nerve tissue formation). ALA and omega-3 fatty acids help to lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels.

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.

The benefits of omega-3 fatty acids may be compromised by high intake of omega-6 fatty acids (safflower, sunflower, and corn oils). Balance is important. An imbalance (more omega-6) may make the body susceptible to arthritis (inflammatory disease), skin disorders (psoriasis, skin cancer), heart disease, and infection (decreases immunity).


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.

When purchasing cooking oil, look for high-quality oil bottled in light-resistant containers. Some oil is kept refrigerated. An expiration date should appear on product labeling. Look for oil that has been manufactured using "modified atmospheric packing methods."

Guidelines and Cautions

Include less saturated fat and more polyunsaturated essential fatty acids into the diet for optimum health. Avoid hydrogenated fats. ALA supplements are available. Check with a medical professional prior to taking supplements.

Updated on: 05/13/10
Richard G. Fessler, MD, PhD
Many patients report feeling improvement in their general well being taking dietary supplements. The Editorial Board of SpineUniverse.com, however, cannot endorse such products since most lack peer reviewed scientific validation of their claims. In most cases an appropriate diet and a "multiple vitamin" will provide the necessary dietary supplements for most individuals. Prior to taking additional dietary supplements it is recommended that patients consult with their personal physician to discuss their specific supplement requirements.