α-Linolenic acid (ALA), a carboxylic acid with 18 carbons and three cis double bonds, is an essential fatty acid needed for human health and can be acquired via regular dietary intake of foods that contain ALA or dietary supplementation of foods high in ALA, for example flaxseed. ALA has been reported to have cardiovascular-protective, anti-cancer, neuro-protective, anti-osteoporotic, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidative effects. ALA is the precursor of longer chain omega-3 fatty acids, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), but its beneficial effects on risk factors for cardiovascular diseases are still inconclusive. The recommended intake of ALA for cardiovascular health is reported to be 1.1-2.2g/day. Although there are limited toxicological data for ALA, no serious adverse effects have been reported. The evidence on an increased prostate cancer risk in association with dietary ALA is not conclusive. Based on the limited data currently available, it may be concluded that ALA may be beneficial as a nutraceutical/pharmaceutical candidate and is safe for use as a food ingredient.
Keywords: Nutraceutic; Safety; α-Linolenic acid.
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