Have you ever wondered what kind of vitamins and nutrients your body is taking in based on the foods you consume? Well, today’s your lucky day because we will talk about just that in this article. For now, we will be introducing you to the remarkable wonders of the Alpha-Linolenic Acids.
Alpha-Linolenic Acid, or ALA, in short, is one of the major types of omega-3 fatty acid that is most commonly found in plant foods such as nuts and seeds. If you don’t know, this specific kind of fatty acid plays a fundamental role in our growth as humans and in our development. 
If you are interested in Alpha-Linolenic Acids and want to know more about it, feel free to read more of what we have prepared in this very informative write-up.
What is Alpha-Linolenic Acid?
As we have mentioned before, Alpha-Linolenic Acids are fatty acids rich in omega-3 found in nuts and many plant foods. The omega-3 fatty acid is a type of essential fat that cannot be produced by our bodies alone. Hence, it has to be consumed through the food that we eat.
Additionally, being an essential fat, we need this particular type of nutrient in our bodies to survive. 
Linolenic Acid and Linoleic Acid: What’s the Difference?
What’s really weird is that both terms only differ by a letter spelling-wise, but they actually play quite specific roles in human health and nutrition.
Linolenic acid is the most common type of omega-3 fatty acid, while Linoleic acid is omega-6 and is an essential polyunsaturated fatty acid. It is also important to note that Linolenic acid comes from plants and is the most important fatty acid from a dietary perspective. Linoleic acids, on the other hand, are essential catalysts for good health.
Apart from being a fundamental catalyst for our growth and development, Alpha-Linolenic Acids also hold more amazing functions in its already ground-breaking roster of benefits. Here’s a thorough list of its additional advantages:
Reduces Heart Complications
Alpha-Linolenic Acid is known to be effective in reducing the chances of heart complications occurring. By maintaining a normal heart rhythm, Alpha-Linolenic Acids help avoid our arteries from hardening. At the same time, it also minimizes blood clots.
Helps Prevent Cancer
Based on multiple cancer studies, it has been discovered that higher levels of Alpha-Linolenic Acid in the body seem to correlate with the lesser presence of cancer cells. Inclinations of colon, rectal, and breast cancer in women have been less likely to happen on multiple occasions. 
Reduces High Blood Pressure
Studies have shown that diets and supplements rich in Alpha-Linolenic Acids lowers blood pressure in people experiencing hypertension by approximately 30 percent. 
Lower Levels of Cholesterol
Nuts—specifically walnuts, are a good source of omega-3 fatty acids. And several observations have shown that people who follow diets that contain walnuts in them tend to have lower cholesterol levels. 
Improved Lung Function
Researchers have found that Alpha-Linolenic Acid supplements improve lung function in a number of people who have asthma by decreasing inflammation in the bronchial cord. Aside from asthma, Alpha-Linolenic Acid is also an effective agent in fighting pneumonia.  
Another notable benefit of Alpha-Linolenic Acids is it promotes eye health. It also keeps our brain and nervous system healthy, which in turn reduces cases of memory loss and slows down aging.
What Happens When Your Body Lacks Alpha-Linolenic Acids?
Alpha-Linolenic Acid is an essential part of our diet because it is a building block for omega-3 that helps our overall growth and development. But what happens when our bodies fall short of this nutrient? Alpha-Linolenic Acid deficiency can lead to:
- Blurry vision or poor eyesight
- Not being able to walk
- Joint pains
- Irritated and dry skin
- Inflammations in various parts of the body due to a high level of cholesterol
To avoid Alpha-Linolenic deficiency, try your best to consume foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids. But if you are currently experiencing a number of the symptoms listed above, consult your doctor so they can prescribe you the proper medication you need.
How Much Should I Take?
Being an essential fat, we should note the amount of Alpha-Linolenic Acids we consume to maintain adequate nutrition. According to scientific research, adult females should take in 1.1 grams of Alpha-Linolenic Acid daily and 1.6 grams for adult males.
In cases where a woman is pregnant, they should be consuming 1.4 grams of ALAs every day. And when breastfeeding, it should be 1.3 grams. 
Foods Rich in APAs
To spare you from the hassle of searching the internet, we have prepared a list of common dietary options that contain healthy amounts of Alpha-Linolenic Acids for your convenience. Each one of them is measured in milligrams for every 200 calories: 
- Flaxseed Oil. 12704mg
- Chia Seeds. 7337mg
- Hemp Seeds. 3141mg
- Canola Oil. 2067mg
- Soybean Oil. 1536mg
- Edamame. 592mg
- Navy Beans. 253mg
- Avocados. 139mg
- Whole Wheat Bread. 109mg
- Oatmeal. 51mg
When taken orally, Alpha-Linolenic Acid is very likely to be safe for adults when digested in amounts present in food. Although, you also have to keep in mind that foods rich in ALAs are known to contain high levels of calories in them. So it is advised to observe your Alpha-Linolenic Acid intake, especially when you are trying to avoid gaining weight.
Another side effect of taking in large doses of Alpha-Linolenic Acids (more than 30 grams in one day) is diarrhea. Allergic reactions to foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, particularly from nuts and plant oils are also highly possible.
Important Reminders and Precautions
There actually hasn’t been enough research and evaluation on the effectiveness and safety of large doses of Alpha-Linolenic Acid in lactation and pregnancy to date. So women are advised not to take Alpha-Linolenic supplements when they are pregnant and when breastfeeding.
Additionally, ALA supplements contain high levels of triglycerides, which are lipids or fats found in the blood. If you have high levels of triglycerides in your blood, taking supplements rich in Alpha-Linolenic Acid could worsen your condition even more.
Furthermore, there has been numerous evidence of Alpha-Linolenic Acid, implying an increased probability of prostate cancer cells appearing in adult males. You should not take Alpha-Linolenic Acid supplements if you have prostate cancer or are at a high risk of getting one.
Bottom line: Alpha-Linolenic Acids
Alpha-Linolenic Acid is indeed an essential requirement for human growth and development. But we shouldn’t forget the fact that there hasn’t been enough reliable data to determine the safety of Alpha-Linolenic Acids if used as medicine. So there is no guarantee that you will feel better if you take in more than what’s necessary.
Therefore, we should always remind ourselves to be mindful of our limits. Taking too much of what our body requires actually defeats the whole purpose of acquiring the nutrient in the first place. So skip the supplements if your doctor doesn’t prescribe it to you. Instead, try going for a Mediterranean Diet or any other healthy alternatives available out there.
And that’s about it for this write-up. We hope we were able to fill you in on the information about Alpha-Linolenic Acids that you need. If you want more information about ALAs in case we forgot to cover them in this article, give your doctor a call and ask them anything you wish to know.
Disclaimer: This article is only a guide. It does not substitute the advice given by your healthcare professional. Before making any health-related decision, consult your healthcare professional.
Editorial References And Fact-Checking
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- Di Pasquale M. G. (2009). The essentials of essential fatty acids. Journal of dietary supplements, 6(2), 143–161. https://doi.org/10.1080/19390210902861841
- Vara-Messler, M., Pasqualini, M. E., Comba, A., Silva, R., Buccellati, C., Trenti, A., Trevisi, L., Eynard, A. R., Sala, A., Bolego, C., & Valentich, M. A. (2017). Increased dietary levels of α-linoleic acid inhibit mammary tumor growth and metastasis. European journal of nutrition, 56(2), 509–519. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00394-015-1096-6
- Banel, D. K., & Hu, F. B. (2009). Effects of walnut consumption on blood lipids and other cardiovascular risk factors: a meta-analysis and systematic review. The American journal of clinical nutrition, 90(1), 56–63. https://doi.org/10.3945/ajcn.2009.27457
- Alpha-linolenic Acid: Health Benefits, Side Effects, Uses, Dose & Precautions. (2021, June 11). RxList. Retrieved September 26, 2022, from https://www.rxlist.com/alpha-linolenic_acid/supplements.htm
- Whitbread, D. (2022, April 22). Foods High in Alpha Linolenic Acid (ALA). Myfooddata. Retrieved September 26, 2022, from https://www.myfooddata.com/articles/foods-high-in-ALA.php
- Boskabady, M. H., Kaveh, M., Shakeri, F., Mohammadian Roshan, N., & Rezaee, R. (2019). Alpha-linolenic acid ameliorates bronchial asthma features in ovalbumin-sensitized rats. The Journal of pharmacy and pharmacology, 71(7), 1089–1099. https://doi.org/10.1111/jphp.13094
- Merchant, A. T., Curhan, G. C., Rimm, E. B., Willett, W. C., & Fawzi, W. W. (2005). Intake of n-6 and n-3 fatty acids and fish and risk of community-acquired pneumonia in US men. The American journal of clinical nutrition, 82(3), 668–674. https://doi.org/10.1093/ajcn.82.3.668