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Bioavailability of α-linolenic acid from flaxseed diets as a function of the age of the subject



Dietary flaxseed may have beneficial cardiovascular effects. An aged population has a higher incidence of cardiovascular disease, but they may react differently to flaxseed in the diet.


To investigate the response, over a period of 4 weeks, of subjects aged 18–29 or 45–69 years to a diet containing the same amount of α-linolenic acid (ALA) (6 g) introduced in the form of ground flaxseed (30 g) or flaxseed oil.


All subjects who received flaxseed oil showed a significant increase in plasma ALA and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) concentrations over the course of this study. Subjects who received ground flaxseed in the 18–29-year-old group showed a statistically significant increase in their plasma ALA levels, and although there was a trend in the same direction for the 45–69-year-old subjects, this did not achieve statistical significance. The diets induced no major changes in platelet aggregation, plasma total cholesterol, low-density lipoprotein or high-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels in any of the groups. Younger subjects showed a decrease in triglyceride (TG) values compared with older subjects. There were no significant side effects that caused compliancy issues.


Subject age does not seem to be a major determining factor in influencing ALA absorption from a flaxseed-supplemented diet nor in the metabolism of ALA to EPA in the groups fed flaxseed oil. Concerns about side effects in older subjects administered a higher fiber load in a flaxseed-supplemented diet are not justified. However, younger but not older subjects showed a beneficial decrease in circulating TGs due to flaxseed supplementation.

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This study was supported by Flax2015, CIHR and the St Boniface Hospital and Research Foundation. Drs D Rodriguez-Leyva, MN Chahine and Ms CMC Dupasquier were a Visiting Scientist, Postdoctoral Fellow, and Trainee, respectively, of the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada.

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Correspondence to G N Pierce.

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Patenaude, A., Rodriguez-Leyva, D., Edel, A. et al. Bioavailability of α-linolenic acid from flaxseed diets as a function of the age of the subject. Eur J Clin Nutr 63, 1123–1129 (2009).

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  • omega-3 fatty acid
  • polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs)
  • platelet aggregation
  • linseed
  • cardiovascular disease
  • aging

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