ALPHA-LINOLENIC ACID (ALA)
Acide Alpha-Linolénique, Ácido Alfa Linolénico, Acide Gras Essentiel, ALA, Acide Linolénique, Acide Gras N3, Acide Gras Oméga 3, Acide Gras Polyinsaturé Oméga 3, Acide Gras Polyinsaturé N3, Essential Fatty Acid, Linolenic Acid, LNA, N-3 Fatty Acid, N-3 Polyunsaturated Fatty Acid, Omega 3, Omega 3 Fatty Acids, Omega-3, Omega-3 Fatty Acids, Omega-3 Polyunsaturated Fatty Acid.
Overview InformationAlpha-linolenic acid is an essential omega-3 fatty acid. It is called "essential" because it is needed for normal human growth and development. Walnuts and other nuts are good sources of alpha-linolenic acid. It is also found in vegetable oils such as flaxseed (linseed) oil, canola (rapeseed) oil, and soybean oil, as well as in red meat and dairy products.
Alpha-linolenic acid is most commonly used for diseases of the heart and blood vessels, such as hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis), heart disease, and high blood pressure. It is also used for other conditions, but there is no good scientific evidence to support most of these uses.
You have probably heard a lot about other omega-3 fatty acids such as EPA and DHA, which are found in fish oil. Be careful not to confuse alpha-linolenic acid with these other omega-3 fatty acids. Not all omega-3 fatty acids act the same way in the body. Alpha-linolenic acid may not have the same benefits as EPA or DHA.
How does it work?Alpha-linolenic acid is thought to decrease the risk of heart disease by helping to maintain normal heart rhythm and heart pumping. It might also reduce blood clots. Although alpha-linolenic acid seems to benefit the cardiovascular system and might reduce the risk of heart disease, research to date does not show it has a significant effect on cholesterol levels.
Uses & Effectiveness
Possibly Effective for
- Hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis). High dietary intake of alpha-linolenic acid seems to reduce the "plaque" in arteries serving the heart. Plaque is the fatty build-up that characterizes atherosclerosis.
- High blood pressure. Eating a diet high in alpha-linolenic acid seems to reduce risk of hypertension by about a third. But more research is needed to confirm this association.
- Pneumonia. Eating a diet high in alpha-linolenic acid seems to reduce the risk of getting pneumonia. But more research is needed to confirm this association.
Insufficient Evidence for
- Attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Early research shows that taking alpha-linolenic acid does not decrease symptoms of ADHD in children 6-16 years old who do not take prescription ADHD medications.
- Heart disease. People who eat more alpha-linolenic acid as part of their diet seem to have up to a 59% lower risk of having a first heart attack. Also, people with or without heart disease who increase DIETARY intake of alpha-linolenic acid by 1.0-1.2 grams per day appear have at least a 20% lower risk of death due to heart disease. But not all research agrees. Some research shows that higher intake of alpha-linolenic acid doesn't reduce the risk of death, heart disease-related death, or coronary events. While it might reduce the risk of irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia) and heart and blood vessel-related events, these benefits are very small.
- Diabetes. People who get more alpha-linolenic acid from the diet seem to have a lower risk of developing diabetes. But it's unclear if getting more alpha-linolenic acid is beneficial to patients with diabetes. Most research shows that eating more oils containing alpha-linolenic acid doesn't improve blood sugar control in people already taking antidiabetes drugs. But it might help to prevent kidney disease in people already with diabetes.
- Kidney transplant. Eating more alpha-linolenic acid doesn't seem to be linked with improved function of transplanted kidney. And it has been linked to an increased risk of dying after a kidney transplant. But it isn't clear if this is because of alpha-linoleic acid itself, or because of eating more fat in general.
- Prostate cancer. There is contradictory evidence about the role of alpha-linolenic acid in prostate cancer. Some research suggests that high dietary intake of alpha-linolenic acid might increase the risk of getting prostate cancer. But other research finds no increased risk or even a slight decreased risk. Reasons for the conflicting results are not clear, but the source of alpha-linolenic acid seems to be important. Alpha-linolenic acid from dairy and meat sources has been positively associated with prostate cancer. Alpha-linolenic acid from plant sources, such as flaxseed, does not appear to affect prostate cancer risk.
- Infection of the airways. Early research shows that taking alpha-linolenic acid and linoleic acid might reduce the number of respiratory infections in children.
- Crohn disease.
- High cholesterol.
- Improving cognitive function.
- Kidney disease.
- Multiple sclerosis (MS).
- Rheumatoid arthritis (RA).
- Skin diseases.
- Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE).
- Other conditions.
Side Effects & SafetyWhen taken by mouth: Alpha-linolenic acid is LIKELY SAFE for most adults when used in amounts found in foods. But keep in mind, it is high in calories and may cause weight gain if consumed in excess. There isn't enough information to know if it is safe to use as a medicine.
Special Precautions & Warnings:Pregnancy and breast-feeding: Alpha-linolenic acid is LIKELY SAFE in amounts found in food. But not enough is known about the safety of alpha-linolenic acid during pregnancy and breast-feeding when used in higher amounts than those typically found in foods. Stay on the safe side and avoid using alpha-linolenic acid supplements.
High levels of blood fats called triglycerides: Don't take alpha-linolenic acid supplements if you have high levels of triglycerides. Alpha-linolenic acid might make the condition worse.
Prostate cancer. Do not take alpha-linolenic acid supplements if you have prostate cancer or are at high risk for getting prostate cancer (e.g., you have a father or brother with prostate cancer). There is some evidence that alpha-linolenic acid might increase the chance of getting prostate cancer.
We currently have no information for ALPHA-LINOLENIC ACID (ALA) Interactions.
The following doses have been studied in scientific research:
The National Institute of Medicine has set Adequate Intake level for alpha-linolenic acid. Adequate Intake is a recommended average daily intake level. The amount varies with age: 0 to 12 months, 1 gram/day; 1 to 3 years, 0.7 grams/day; 4 to 8 years, 0.9 grams/day; girls 9 to 13 years, 1.0 grams/day; boys 9 to 13 years, 1.2 grams/day; girls 14 and older, 1.1 grams/day; boys 14 and older, 1.6 grams/day; for women, 1.1 grams/day; for men, 1.6 grams/day; during pregnancy, 1.4 grams/day, and during breast feeding, 1.3 grams/day.
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- Giovannucci E, Rimm EB, Colditz GA, et al. A prospective study of dietary fat and risk of prostate cancer. J Natl Cancer Inst 1993;85:1571-9. View abstract.
- Harvei S, Bjerve KS, Tretli S, et al. Prediagnostic level of fatty acids in serum phospholipids: omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids and the risk of prostate cancer. Int J Cancer 1997;71:545-51. View abstract.
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- Hu FB, Stampfer MJ, Manson JE, et al. Dietary intake of alpha-linolenic acid and risk of fatal ischemic heart disease among women. Am J Clin Nutr 1999;69:890-7. View abstract.
- Jovanovski E, Li D, Thanh Ho HV, et al. The effect of alpha-linolenic acid on glycemic control in individuals with type 2 diabetes: A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled clinical trials. Medicine (Baltimore) 2017;96(21):e6531. doi: 10.1097/MD.0000000000006531. View abstract.
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- Klein V, Chajes V, Germain E, et al. Low alpha-linolenic acid content of adipose breast tissue is associated with an increased risk of breast cancer. Eur J Cancer 2000;36:335-40. View abstract.
- Kolonel LN, Nomura AM, Cooney RV. Dietary fat and prostate cancer: current status. J Natl Cancer Inst 1999;91:414-28. View abstract.
- Laaksonen DE, Laukkanen JA, Niskanen L, et al. Serum linoleic and total polyunsaturated fatty acids in relation to prostate and other cancers: a population-based cohort study. Int J Cancer 2004;111:444-50.. View abstract.
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- Li D, Sinclair A, Wilson A, et al. Effect of dietary alpha-linolenic acid on thrombotic risk factors in vegetarian men. Am J Clin Nutr 1999;69:872-82. View abstract.
- Merchant AT, Curhan GC, Rimm EB, et al. Intake of n-6 and n-3 fatty acids and fish and risk of community-acquired pnemonia in US men. Am J Clin Nutr 2005;82:668-74. View abstract.
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- Pang D, Allman-Farinelli MA, Wong T, et al. Replacement of linoleic acid with alpha-linolenic acid does not alter blood lipids in normolipidaemic men. Br J Nutr 1998;80:163-7. View abstract.
- Pedersen JI, Ringstad J, Almendingen K, et al. Adipose tissue fatty acids and risk of myocardial infarction-a case-control study. Eur J Clin Nutr 2000;54:618-25. View abstract.
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