Food and Behaviour Research

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Consumption of Buglossoides arvensis seed oil is safe and increases tissue long-chain n-3 fatty acid content more than flax seed oil - results of a phase I randomised clinical trial.

Lefort N, LeBlanc R, Giroux MA, Surette ME. (2016) J Nutr Sci. 5 e2. doi: 10.1017/jns.2015.34. eCollection 2016. 

Web URL: View this and related abstracts via PubMed here.


Enrichment of tissues with ≥20-carbon n-3 PUFA like EPA is associated with positive cardiovascular outcomes. Stearidonic acid (SDA; 18 : 4n-3) and α-linolenic acid (ALA; 18 : 3n-3) are plant-derived dietary n-3 PUFA; however, direct comparisons of their impact on tissue n-3 PUFA content are lacking. 

Ahiflower(®) oil extracted from Buglossoides arvensis seeds is the richest known non-genetically modified source of dietary SDA. To investigate the safety and efficacy of dietary Ahiflower oil, a parallel-group, randomised, double-blind, comparator-controlled phase I clinical trial was performed.

Diets of healthy subjects (n 40) were supplemented for 28 d with 9·1 g/d of Ahiflower (46 % ALA, 20 % SDA) or flax seed oil (59 % ALA). Blood and urine chemistries, blood lipid profiles, hepatic and renal function tests and haematology were measured as safety parameters. The fatty acid composition of fasting plasma, erythrocytes, polymorphonuclear cells and mononuclear cells were measured at baseline and after 14 and 28 d of supplementation.

No clinically significant changes in safety parameters were measured in either group. Tissue ALA and EPA content increased in both groups compared with baseline, but EPA accrual in plasma and in all cell types was greater in the Ahiflower group (time × treatment interactions, P ≤ 0·01).

Plasma and mononuclear cell eicosatetraenoic acid (20 : 4n-3) and docosapentaenoic acid (22 : 5n-3) content also increased significantly in the Ahiflower group compared with the flax group.

In conclusion, the consumption of Ahiflower oil is safe and is more effective for the enrichment of tissues with 20- and 22-carbon n-3 PUFA than flax seed oil.


AE, adverse event; ALA, α-linolenic acid; AR, adverse reaction; DGLA, dihomo-γ-linolenic acid; DPA, docosapentaenoic acid; EPA; ETA, eicosatetraenoic acid; FAME, fatty acid methyl esters; GLA, γ-linolenic acid; HBSS, Hanks' balanced salt solution; Leucocytes; PMN, polymorphonuclear cells; SDA, stearidonic acid; Stearidonic acid


In this human clinical trial, participants consumed either flax seed oil (containing the short-chain omega-3 alpha-linolenic acid, or ALA) or a novel natural plant oil (Ahiflower, containing both ALA and another omega-3, Stearidonic Acid, SDA) for 4 weeks.

Blood concentrations of omega-3 ALA and EPA increased in both groups, but the increase in EPA (a key long-chain omega-3 linked to many health benefits) was four times greater for Ahiflower vs flax oil.

Like flax oil, the vast majority of plant-based 'omega-3' contain only ALA - but this does not convert efficiently in the body to the long-chain omega-3 (EPA and DHA) (see Brenna et al 2009).

As a result, flax oil (or other plant oils containing 'omega-3' only as ALA, such as hemp, chia, pumpkin seed etc) do NOT have the same health benefits as oils derived from fish and seafood, which contain the valuable long-chain omega-3 EPA and DHA 'ready-made'.  

The findings from this study support the superior conversion of SDA into both EPA and omega-3 DPA when compared with ALA. They therefore indicate that ahiflower oil is likely to be a superior choice for vegetarians, vegans and others seeking natural and sustainable plant-based source of omega-3 for their health benefits.

Omega-3:  ALA (short-chain) vs EPA and DHA (long-chain)

Not all 'omega-3' are the same - but most consumers remain very confused, and regulators have not been helping anyone to understand the key differences: see