alpha-Linolenic Acid / Linolenic Acid
What is alpha-linolenic acid?
alpha-Linolenic acid (also known as ALA) is a triple unsaturated fatty acid with 18 carbon atoms. It belongs to the group of omega-3 fatty acids. These fatty acids are called essential because the human body is unable to synthesise them on its own and they therefore must be obtained from the diet.
Alpha-linolenic acid is also known as linolenic acid. However, there are several other fatty acids that end in -linolenc acid, such as gamma-linolenic acid, an omega-6 fatty acid. The name linolenic acid derives from Greek linos, meaning flax. As indicated by the name, flaxseeds (also known as linseeds) and thus flaxseed oil are very rich in alpha-linolenic acid: 100 g of flaxseed oil contain around 50 g of omega-3 fatty acids. But there are also other edible oils with a high content of alpha-linolenic acid. For example, chia oil, cold-pressed from chia seeds, contains up to 60 % of this essential acid which is an even higher percentage than in flaxseed oil.
Edible oils containing alpha-linolenic acid
The following edible oils are sources of alpha-linolenic acid:
- chia oil (approx. 60 g per 100 g)
- flaxseed oil (approx. 55 g per 100 g)
- hemp seed oil (approx. 28 g per 100 g)
- walnut oil (approx. 15 g per 100 g)
- canola oil (approx. 10 g per 100 g)
Apart from vegetable oils, the omega-3 fatty acid can also be found in fish, nuts, leafy green vegetables, wheat germs and wild herbs.
As plant-based omega-3 fatty acid, ALA is especially important for the diet of people who do not eat fish as well as for vegetarians and vegans. Flaxseed oil is widely known as source for omega-3 fatty acids. Thanks to its relatively low content of linoleic acid (an omega-6 fatty acid), flaxseed oil can help to balance the level between omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids, shifting it towards omega-3. Nutrition sciences recommend this, as most people have a tendency of over-consuming omega-6 fatty acids while neglecting omega-3 fatty acids in their diet.
A regular consumption of alpha-linolenic acid helps maintaining a normal level of cholestorol in the blood. Only one tablespoon of flaxseed oil (approx. 5 g) covers an adult's daily need of 2 g ALA.