Biomarkers

What is Alpha Linolenic Acid?

Alpha Linoleic Acid is an “essential” fatty acid, meaning that your body cannot make it and you must obtain it from your diet. Alpha Linoleic Acid is by far the most abundant polyunsaturated fatty acid in most human tissues. 

Dietary sources of alpha-linolenic acid include:

  • Flaxseeds and flaxseed oil
  • Canola (rapeseed) oil
  • Soybeans and soybean oil
  • Pumpkin seeds and pumpkin seed oil
  • Perilla seed oil
  • Tofu
  • Walnuts and walnut oil

Note: Alpha-linolenic acid is not the same as alpha-lipoic acid, an antioxidant that helps the body turn glucose into energy. This can be confusing because both alpha-linolenic acid and alpha-lipoic acid are sometimes abbreviated as ALA.

Low levels:

One of the most common essential fatty acid deficiencies is that of alpha linolenic acid.

Alpha Linolenic Acid may be converted into eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), a longer fatty acid that is involved in regulation of inflammatory processes and prevention of platelet “stickiness.” Diminished platelet stickiness reduces the blood clotting that can lead to heart attack or stroke. Your body can make the other polyunsaturated omega-3 fatty acids from ALA. However, many things can interfere with this process including zinc deficiency, alcohol, obesity, and aging.

Severe deficiency in omega-3 intake pointed by numerous epidemiologic studies may increase the brain’s vulnerability representing an important risk factor in the development and/or deterioration of certain cardio- and neuropathologies.

Some signs of alpha-linolenic acid deficiency include:

  • Loss of motor coordination
  • Tingling in the extremities
  • Vision impairment
  • Behavioral changes.

Further notes:

  • A modest dietary consumption of ALA (1.2-2g) is recommended
  • 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.

High levels:

  • Elevated serum alpha-linolenic acid levels are associated with decreased chance of pregnancy after in vitro fertilization
  • While omega-3 fatty acids have numerous benefits and clinical indications, as with any nutraceutical, caution should be exercised to avoid adverse reactions, and careful patient selection should be employed.
  • The cardioprotective effects of higher ALA intakes do not appear to be related to changes in serum lipid profiles. A meta-analysis of 14 randomized controlled trials concluded that ALA supplementation had no effect on total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, or triglyceride levels.

Names and Abbreviations of the Omega-6 and Omega-3 Fatty Acids:

Omega-6 Fatty Acids Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Linoleic acid
LA
18:2n-6
α-Linolenic acid
ALA
18:3n-3
γ-Linolenic acid
GLA
18:3n-6
Stearadonic acid
SDA
18:4n-3
Dihomo-γ-linolenic acid
DGLA
20:3n-6
Eicosatetraienoic acid
ETA
20:4n-3
Arachidonic acid
AA
20:4n-6
Eicosapentaenoic acid
EPA
20:5n-3
Adrenic acid
22:4n-6
Docosapentaenoic acid
DPA (n-3)
22:5n-3
Tetracosatetraenoic acid
24:4n-6
Tetracosapentaenoic acid
24:5n-3
Tetracosapentaienoic acid
24:5n-6
Tetracosahexaenoic acid
24:6n-3
Docosapentaenoic acid
DPA (n-6)
22:5n-6
Docosahexaenoic acid
DHA
22:6n-3

References:

Disclaimer:

The information on healthmatters.io is NOT intended to replace a one-on-one relationship with a qualified health care professional and is not intended as medical advice.

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