Alpha-Linolenic Acid (ALA)
Alpha-Linolenic Acid (ALA) is a plant-based fatty acid the body uses for energy. It is an essential fatty omega-3 fatty acid. 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 omega-3 fatty acids help to lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels.
Many autoimmune disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, certain types of cancer, and multiple sclerosis may benefit from ALA and the family of omega-3 oils. Other conditions that may benefit include depression, migraine headache, and diabetes.
Benefits and Balance
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.
Many patients report feeling an improvement in general well being by taking dietary supplements. The Editorial Board of SpineUniverse.com, however, cannot endorse such products since many 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.