You'd be hard-pressed to pick up a women's magazine and fail to see an article or product touting the benefits of flax oil, which comes from flax plant seeds. Admittedly, many of its purported effects are beneficial to both men and women, but it has potential benefits for women in particular. Consult your doctor before making any changes to your dietary regimen.
Flax oil is rich in alpha-linolenic acid, an essential fatty acid. ALA, a beneficial omega-3 fatty acid that your body needs to function properly, can help reduce the risk of chronic diseases, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. However, more research is needed in this area. Individuals commonly add flax oil to their diet in hopes of reaping these benefits.
A diet high in omega-3 fatty acids and phytoestrogens might exert anticancer benefits. Flax oil is the richest source of lignans -- a class of phytoestrogens -- and ALA. Flax oil inhibits breast cancer tumor growth by as much as 45 percent, according to a study published in the November 2009 issue of the journal "Nutrition and Cancer."
Menopause is an unavoidable part of aging for females, and with it comes unpleasant symptoms such as hot flashes. Emerging evidence suggests that the phytoestrogens in foods such a flax oil might help. Mayo Clinic conducted a study to evaluate the effectiveness of flaxseed on the management of hot flashes. Researchers found that women who consumed flaxseed daily reduced their hot flash frequency by as much as 50 percent.
Omega-3 fatty acids play an important role in fetal development. However, some evidence suggests that consuming flax oil during your second or third trimester can potentially increase your risk of preterm birth, according to MedlinePlus. Evidence is lacking on the safety of consuming flax oil while breast-feeding. Avoid this oil during pregnancy and while you are breast-feeding.
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Flaxseed Oil
- Nutrition and Cancer: Dietary Flaxseed Inhibits Human Breast Cancer Growth and Metastasis and Downregulates Expression of Insulin-like Growth Factor and Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor
- MedlinePlus: Flaxseed Oil
- Journal of Society and Integrative Oncology: Pilot Evaluation of Flaxseed for the Management of Hot Flashes
Janet Renee is a clinical dietitian with a special interest in weight management, sports dietetics, medical nutrition therapy and diet trends. She earned her Master of Science in nutrition from the University of Chicago and has contributed to health and wellness magazines, including Prevention, Self, Shape and Cooking Light.