This page about flaxseed for gout was last reviewed, or updated, on 5 January 2018.
FLAXSEED (LINSEED) FOR GOUT
Is flaxseed for gout a good idea? Flaxseed oil (also called Linseed oil) is the oil produced from flaxseeds, the seeds of the flax plant. The flax plant is versatile. It is best known for making linen. Non-edible linseed oil is used for varnishing wood. You may have some flax fibre (fiber) in your wallet or purse – it could be in your banknotes (bills) depending on how the paper was made.
At first glance flaxseed oil is a good food for gout, because of its high amount of alpha linolenic acid (ALA), but on a closer inspection, there is a heavy qualification.
Flaxseed oil supplements, whether you use the oil or the soft gel capsules, have a good balance of omega-3 and -6 fatty acids to overcome dietary deficits of omega -3 and give an anti-inflammatory boost.
That is, flaxseed oil supplements have much more omega-3 than omega -6. Most people need more omega -3 and they don't get it. People who do get sufficient omega -3 tend to be from countries where fish are frequently eaten.
Its omega -3 fatty acid, alpha-linolenic acid (ALA, sometimes called linolenic acid in which case it will be abbreviated to LNA), is the third omega -3, along with EPA and DHA. If you buy a dietary supplement the ratio in the flaxseed oil product depends on the brand you buy, but it is approximately 3.5 omega -3 to 1.0 omega -6 (linoleic acid). (3.5:1.0).
Flaxseed oil does NOT directly contain the two other omega -3 fatty acids found in fish oils, EPA and DHA which are helpful in fighting inflammation among many other health benefits.
THE IMPORTANT CONVERSION OF ALA IN FLAXSEED PRODUCTS
The problem with flaxseed oil is that although its alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) content is over 50% the ALA has to be converted in the body into EPA and DHA to be helpful. This conversion takes time, perhaps weeks, and only a small proportion is actually converted. Total ALA to EPA/DHA conversion has been estimated at about 12% but other estimates have been lower.
And to even less of DHA than EPA. (DHA may be better for the brain, EPA better for anti inflammation because it can produce good anti inflammatory eicosanoid prostaglandins).
The conversion rate almost certainly varies from person to person. So you probably won't get much EPA/DHA from flaxseed cooking oil, or from flax meal, or from a dietary supplement.
However, advocates of flaxseed oil for getting EPA/DHA into the body and brain argue that other studies show that the conversion rate is higher than the numbers we have just mentioned. They also argue that flax, especially organic flax, does not have the potential contamination of some fish and fish oils.
So what's best for gout sufferers?
You cannot find out what is your own conversion ratio. The argument in favour of the omega -3 oils is very strong. Neither EPA/DHA in fish oils, nor in fish, has to be converted. Therefore our opinion is that they are a more reliable source of how much EPA/DHA you decide you need. Buy good quality fish oils and try to determine the fish you eat is free of contamination. But there are still arguments in favour of using flaxseed for gout - both flax meal and flaxseed oil. (See further on).
FLAXSEED - OTHER BENEFITS
If you buy cooking flaxseed oil, or the dietary supplement oil, or the soft gel capsule dietary supplements, they will also contain the omega -6 fatty acid, linoleic acid. Linoleic acid (LA) is converted in the body in a series of steps, into gamma linolenic acid (GLA). GLA is also a precursor of good anti inflammatory eicosanoid prostaglandins.
Flax meal made from ground flax seeds, or flaxseed oil, can be used by anyone whose dietary restrictions makes them unable to eat fish or take fish oil supplements, in a diet for gout. And you wouldn't want to eat any fish you know triggers a gout attack personally. You may not be able to eat medium purine fish more than twice a week. But you get more reliable EPA/DHA from quality fish oils, and certain fish.
Flaxseed oil is plant based and therefore almost certainly fairly low purine. So you can take a flaxseed oil supplement for its linoleic acid (omega -6), which produces anti inflammatory prostaglandins when its converted to gamma linolenic acid (GLA), and fish oils for EPA and DHA (omega -3), because fish oils are also low purine. For EPA and DHA they work faster and more efficiently than flaxseed oil, or flax meal, to also help produce anti inflammatory eicosanoid prostaglandins.
Evening primrose oil or borage oil will also produce quality omega -6, so they are a good alternative to flaxseed oil.
Another good alternative is good quality oatmeal (porrridge oats) which is one of the very few edible foods that contain GLA. Whole grain oats' GLA does not have to be converted from linoleic acid (LA) and they also contain linoleic acid.
USING FLAXSEEDS/ FLAXSEED OIL
For their ALA, the omega -3 that has to be converted, and their linoleic acid you can grind flaxseeds in a coffee grinder or mini food processor. The resulting flax seed meal (also called flax meal) is easy to add to meals – you can sprinkle it onto cereals and salads, into soups, or put it into home baked goods. Adding it to oats is a good idea. If you grind them, make sure the flaxmeal is stored in the refridgerator in a very airtight container to avoid the oxidization which produces the free radicals required to be squelched by antioxidants.
You can also buy ground flaxseeds – flaxseed meal/ flax meal – which saves time, or buy non dietary supplement flaxseed oil. The USDA database shows that the oil has more than twice as much ALA as the seeds (ground or whole). Use organic products.
Definitely do not fry with flaxseed oil. It oxidizes very quickly and therefore will produce free radicals. Use
the oil as a salad oil or take one tablespoon daily. The descriptions
"cold pressed," or "cold processed," on the flaxseed oil supplement, or
any container means better quality, just as it does with olive oil. Make
sure you only buy flaxseed oil in an opaque (dark) container because of
the oxidization problem.
Lignans for gout
The lignans in flaxseeds, and the oil that's sold, (but check the nutrition label to ensure the oil includes lignans) are reported to have anti breast cancer properties and they are also said to be strong antioxidants. This makes them useful for gout sufferers, but other foods are antioxidants, especially many fruits and vegetables. Shake the bottle really well to ensure you get the lignans because they settle at the bottom.
Best use of flaxseed for gout?
When the seeds are ground into flax meal much of their nutrient value is lost. However, two tablespoons of flaxseed meal, the stuff you sprinkle into other meals, will give you a useful of amount of dietary fibre (fiber), about 3.8 grams and useful amounts of calcium (36 mg), magnesium (54 mg) and potassium (114 mg), all of which are needed in any gout diet. Somewhat helpful. And from the ALA you will get some EPA/DHA, albeit an uncertain amount.
Flaxseed oil, whether it's a cooking oil, supplement oil or in soft gel capsules, gives you quite a useful amount of monounsaturated fat,(but not close to the amount in olive oil) as well as the linoleic acid, some of which eventually becomes GLA in the body, but not the fibre (fiber) or the vitamins. GLA is helpful because it is a building block of good anti-inflammatory eicosanoids as noted above. For the highest amounts of ALA and LA take it by tablespoon, not soft gel capsules.
How much flaxseed should you eat?
There is one more property of flaxseeds to consider. Over-consumption of ALA reduces GLA production by inhibiting the D6D enzyme. The D6D enzyme aids the production of good eicosanoids. So the amount of flaxseed for gout you eat is something to watch. How much flaxmeal should you eat? Probably no more than one tablespoon a day, but you may have to experiment. D6D activity depends too on whether you take the vitamins explained on the omega- 6 page or get them from foods. And on your age - the older you are, the less GLA you produce.
Olive oil for gout? Olive oil is the best cooking oil for gout sufferers, and
so any of the diets for gout you use. But not because it's high in the EPA/DHA omega -3 fatty acids – there are none. Its health benefit comes from its high content of monounsaturated oils and its useful amount of polyunsaturated oils.