Tag Archives: Flax Seed Oil

Conversion to secondary Omega-3s

The Omega-3 in flax oil (ALA) is the primary essential fatty acid that the body cannot make – you must obtain it from your food.

A healthy body uses ALA to make the secondary Omega-3’s – EPA and DHA, which it needs for healthy brain/eye/nerve function. EPA is a key building block your body uses to make prostaglandins – key hormone like substances which control many bodily functions like the “flight or fight” reactions – think stress. So you do need both types of Omega-3.

However all the Omega-3s – ALA, EPA and DHA are alike, in that they all block the actions of some compounds that cause inflammation in your body. Most chronic diseases, like heart disease, stroke, diabetes, cancer and arthritis are marked by inflammation. By blocking inflammation, ALL omega-3 fats help to reduce the risk of chronic disease.

How does your body do this conversion?


The first step in this process uses an enzyme called the Delta-6-desaturase (D6D) – this is widely recognized as being the step that restricts the rate of this process. This rate can be impacted by a number of factors – more on this later.

You can get also get EPA and DHA direct from fish oil, but there are some serious limitations for your body if you just take a few fish oil capsules:

1. You only get the effects of better oxygenation and membrane integrity from the ALA in flax-seed oil – see “Oil on the mem-brane”

2. Your body needs to have roughly equal amounts of Omega-3 and Omega-6 – see “The balancing act- Omega 3:Omega 6”, so taking a gram or two of fish oil in capsules is going to do little to change this.

A very common argument used by the proponents of fish oil, is that humans can only convert limited amounts of ALA to the long chain Omega-3 EPA and even less to DHA.

Yes – some of the initial studies did indicate quite low conversion rates, but as the measurement techniques have become more sophisticated, the estimates of conversion rates have increased substantially. A recently published review on the subject suggests that the conversion of ALA to EPA, as measured in the blood, is in the order of 8 – 20% and the conversion to DHA is 0.5 – 9%5.

But this is only part of the story:

• The conversion rate is influenced by oestrogen levels, so that young women can convert up to 20 times more ALA to DHA than young men (so that they can grow their baby with a healthy brain perhaps?).

• Preterm infants on formula were converting about 15% of the ALA to DHA.

• When a group of healthy individuals were supplemented with flax oil, the levels of DHA in the brain and retina increased, even though there was no change in the amount of DHA circulating in the blood. This explains why all the early studies measuring the rates of conversion of ALA to DHA in either the blood serum or blood platelets did not tell the full story.

So, in a nut shell, the latest research is suggesting that the body is capable of making the amount of secondary Omega-3s it needs from the primary EFAs, delivered to the site where the body needs it.

Considering that humans are thought to have evolved in Eastern Africa, well away from oily cold water fish, rich in EPA and DHA, this is not really a surprising result – aren’t our bodies clever?


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Oil on the mem-brane

How should you get flax seed oil into your diet?

The ultimate way is to mix it with sulphur amino acids because of the benefits to your cell membranes. Milk and eggs are the richest sources of the sulphur amino acids, but other protein foods, like hemp seed, are also good sources.

Emulsifying flax seed oil into foods like yoghurt, cottage cheese and mayonnaise makes the Omega-3 work with increased intensity, which greatly improves its functioning in the body.

When sulphur amino acids are emulsified with flax seed oil, they form lipoproteins in the stomach. The lipoproteins are then absorbed directly into the blood stream and are used by your body for constructing healthy cell walls/membranes.

Why are healthy membranes so critical for good health?

1. They are the key component of the oxygen transport system into the cell. When you start taking flax seed oil in this way most people get a lift in energy levels.

Since cancer cells don’t thrive in a high oxygen environment, such a combination is a key part of most effective natural protocols for cancer patients (See http://cancertutor.com/Cancer/Budwig.html).

Well oxygenated muscles also recover more quickly after exercise and athletic performance can be enhanced.

More on these two subjects later.

2. Undamaged essential fatty acids have a specific shape, which allows them to pack accurately into cell membranes, which minimises leaky membranes.

Leaky membranes are a key cause of allergic reactions from cell contents ending up in the wrong place – think asthma and food allergies.

Leaky membranes also allow water loss from cells, so are a major cause of dry skin, hair and nails (See – I see the signs).

So how do you introduce flax seed oil into your diet and get these great health benefits?


  • By emulsifying flax seed oil into foods like yoghurt, cottage cheese and mayonnaise it makes the oil work with increased intensity, which greatly improves its functioning in the body – this is how healthy cell membranes are constructed.

THE NEXT BEST (because you are getting some sulphur amino acids):

  • Use our delicious Mustard, Miso or Tamari flax oil sauces/dressings from our 3six9 range as part of your meal.
  • Or use Flax Seed oil with food, by adding to your meals – like pour it over your breakfast cereal or evening meal or add to mashed potato (See Recipes page on this blog or http://waihibush.co.nz/recipes.htm for lots more ideas.
  •  My personal favourite is a lightly curried pumpkin soup served with a dollop of sour cream and a slosh of Flax Seed oil.


  • Straight off a spoon – yes it has got a nice nutty flavour, but many can’t handle the oily texture.
  • You can use a treat like raisins to cut the oily texture out of your mouth afterwards.

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Eczema Experience

We recently had a stand at the Gluten Free Show in Christchurch and talked to a large number of people about the role of Flax Seed oil on food allergies and Flax Seed fibre on bowel, prostate and breast health.

We saw one horrifying sight – a very restless and upset two year old being lugged around by a very young mum. The wee boy had terrible red, angry, scaly eczema all over the visible bits of his skin – apparently his skin is all like this.

Having been through this experience myself I can imagine what life is like for the whole family – not fun.

I was fortunate to find the solution for Oliver and my family, which is why I now make the best Flax Seed oil in the world and continue to use it regularly.

So we dragged this mother over and I had a good chat to her about how important Omega 3 in the diet is and this was the probable cause of her little boys terrible eczema– she knew nothing about nutrition. We also gave the little boy a taste of a Flax Seed oil smoothie which he loved.

Having found that applying the oil direct to the skin took the itch out for Oliver, I rubbed a bit of Flax Seed oil onto his red and angry ankle. About half an hour later I happened to run into them further around the show – his ankle was already looking better – the scalyness was gone and red was looking less angry.

For those of you with milk allergies, another great way to get Omega-3 and sulphur protein (more later) into the whole family is Abby’s Flax Seed oil mayo.

If you want to get the recipe for our flax seed oil smoothie or Abby’s flax seed oil mayo, make sure you check out the recipe page on this blog or check out my other blog entries- both are featured as tips of the day.

If you know anyone with a child with eczema like this “pass it on”.

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The balancing act- Omega 3:Omega 6

Omega-6/Omega-3 Ratio and Health

Now that you know what an Omega-6/Omega-3 imbalance might look like in your body (see my blog ‘I see the signs’), why is it so important?

What can this imbalance do to your health?

Potentially this imbalance can cause some really nasty things. It was summed up by the editor of the proceedings from a recent major scientific conference on this subject-

“A higher omega-6/omega-3 ratio is associated with increased risk for coronary heart disease, colorectal cancer, asthma, osteoporosis, arthritis, and neurodegenerative diseases and various aspects of mental illness, violent behavior, and deficient cognition in both children and the elderly.”

That’s a pretty serious list, which includes many of the very common health issues that face many people and entire families. The consensus from the delegates at the conference is that the optimum ratio of Omega-6/Omega-3 is about 2 -3 or less.

Why will this happen?

Major changes have taken place in our diet in the last 10,000 years, since the beginning of the Agricultural Revolution, yet our genes have changed very little over the same period (perhaps 0.005%).

So today most of us eat very differently from the way for which our genes are programmed. Studies of the diet we ate as our bodies evolved indicate that the major changes that have happened since then include:

  • The type and amount of essential fatty acids
  • The antioxidant content of foods
  • The amount of dietary fibre.

How has this happened?

These changes have been exacerbated in the last 50 years by the advent of the modern vegetable oil industry, which has seen rapid growth in the production and, more importantly, promotion of “polyunsaturated” or Omega-6 oils. This has lead to rapid growth in their consumption, because we are “educated” by the vegetable oil industry to believe it is the healthy thing to do. (Check out my earlier blog “Are they pulling the ‘OIL’ over your eyes”)

What we used to eat:

Estimates of the food eaten by our forbears in the late Paleolithic period (our Hunter Gatherer phase) suggest an Omega-6/Omega-3 of 0.8/1 – in other words more Omega-3 than Omega-6.

What we eat now:

Similar estimates for the present Western diet show that it is both ’deficient’ in Omega-3 and with an Omega-6/Omega-3 ratio of 16 – 20/1 or even up to 30/1.

Thus there has been both an absolute and relative decrease in the amount of Omega-3 consumed in the diet.

How can you change this?

To redress this major imbalance it is important to:

1. Substantially reduce your intake of Omega-6 oils by switching to the healthier Omega-9 oils for cooking (See my blog “What are Omega-9 fats”) and by reducing the amount of junk food your family eats.

2. Increase your intake of Omega-3.

Flax seed oil (FSO) is the only Omega-3 oil capable of reducing this imbalance. Oils like hemp and walnut still contain more Omega-6 than Omega-3. (See my blog “What are the Omega-3 fats”)

While taking a few fish or flax capsules a day will have some impact on your health, such action is going to do little to change this major imbalance. Getting 1 – 2 tbsp per day of fresh Flax Seed oil into your diet is the most practical way to correct this imbalance.

How long to get in balance?

It is likely to take at least six months or even several years, depending on the amount of Omega-6 (think junk food!) in your diet and how much Flax oil you take.

How will I know when this has happened?

After taking Flax oil for some time you will reach a point when you get too much Omega-3, because the balance has tipped the other way i.e. an Omega-6/Omega-3 of less than 1. When this happens you will see the return of one of the symptoms of EFA imbalance (see my Blog “I see the signs”) – this will typically be the symptom you had in the first place.

Once you get to this point, then you need to start taking an oil blend that has equal amounts of Omega3 and Omega-6 to maintain good health e.g. Flax Balance from Waihi Bush Organic Farm. Any symptoms of an imbalance will quickly disappear.

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I see the signs

The signs of Omega-3 deficiency

Author’s note: In my last post I talked about the fact that your skin, hair or nails are usually the first place you see a lack of Omega-3, following this, many of you asked about other things that may be indicators of an Omega-3 deficiency, so I have outlined some more for you.

A lack of Omega-3 in the diet is more common than you might think, most people on a typical western diet are getting more Omega-6 than they need (see “What are Omega-6 fats?” blog) and not enough Omega-3 – this causes an imbalance in the body that often displays itself as the symptoms of an Omega-3 deficiency.

Typically this lack of Omega-3 will show up as one or more of the following physical symptoms:
  • Excessive thirst
  • Excessive ear wax
  • Dandruff
  • Frequent urination
  • Irritability
  • Attention deficit
  • Soft, brittle or easily frayed nails
  • Allergies
  • Lowered immunity
  • Fatigue
  • Hyperactivity
  • Dry eyes
  • Poor wound healing
  • Frequent infections
  • Learning and memory problems
  • Patches of pale skin on cheeks
  • Cracked skin on heels or fingertips
  • Craving for rich fatty foods

“Ouch – that’s a long list, several of these are me” you say?

You are right, it is a long list but many of these conditions can be easily remedied by returning to a better balance of Omega 3 and 6. By changing your diet to include things like flax seed oil that are high in Omega-3, you can boost the levels of Omega-3 in your body and return to this better ‘balance’ – more on that later.

“The list also seems to potentially include any part of the body?”

Yes it does, because all the cells in your body should have Omega-3 in their cell membranes to function smoothly, so lack of Omega-3 can manifest in many ways throughout the body.

Everybody is different – your diet, exercise levels and mental attitude all affect the way your body is going to show an Omega-6/Omega-3 imbalance.

Most people I see are exhibiting some symptoms of lack of Omega-3 – but no I don’t go around looking for lots of ear wax.

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“World Beating Flax Seed Oil”

What makes waihi bush organic farm flaxseed oil the best?

The way its grown

Our certified organic growers are audited annually to ensure they meet the strictest organic standards – not only do they meet the NZ Food Safety Authority standards, but in addition I require our growers to meet the USA National Organic Standards.

Flavour varies from farm to farm, so I select our growers who consistently give us good flavour – most of them grow on the fertile Canterbury plains although I do have growers from South Otago to Hawkes Bay.

The climate it grows in

The small size of New Zealand, with our mountains so close to the sea, gives us an unusual combination of alpine and maritime climates. While we have hot days during the seed-ripening phase, we also mostly have cool nights.

This means that the plants have extra surplus energy to store in the seed as the Omega-3 ALA. A research project at Lincoln University suggests that on average our oils are 5% higher in ALA than other growing regions around the world, because of our unique climate.

The way its looked after

I have perfected the way we look after our seed during the extraction process, protecting it from damaging light, oxygen and heat all the way through to the bottle. We also carefully test and taste our oil to make sure it meets our stringent quality standards.

I have tasted most of the flax seed oils available in Europe, North America and Asia, most of them I would never put in a bottle and I have only found two that come close to us, in having a pleasant nutty flavour – the way all Flax Seed oil should be (if it doesn’t taste like this it will be actively bad for your health).

Our blends

Our blends are unique; in that I have studied the science about the way your body uses both Primary and Secondary Omega-3 and Omega-6 (see the blogs on these EFAs for more information). Other blends, such as Udo’s Choice Oil Blend, supplement Flax seed oil with secondary Omega-6 from Evening Primrose oil. Such a blend completely ignores the science that show that your body uses the same enzymes to convert the Primary Omega-3 and Omega-6 to the many by products your body needs to function in a healthy manner.

So if you need to supplement with secondary Omega-6 you MUST supplement with secondary Omega-3 as well to keep your metabolism in balance

Thus I developed the technology around cold pressing blackcurrant seed oil to provide a tasty source of the Secondary Omega-3s your body needs to balance the Secondary Omega-6s from Evening Primrose seed oil (more later).

To get your body functioning correctly and into balance (See Omega-3 Blog) as quickly as possible I have designed a three-stage program.

Flax Boost

This tasty blend is mostly Flax Seed oil, but has physiologically balanced amounts of Secondary Omega-3 and Omega-6 from Blackcurrant and Evening Primrose seed oils. These bypasses an enzyme blockage caused by the stresses of modern life (the delta-6-desaturase or D6D enzyme).

This blend ensures that your body responds quickly, so that you are motivated to continue taking the oil because your body feels better.

A number of studies have shown that within 4 – 6 weeks of consuming high quality Flax Seed oil, the D6D enzyme will be working correctly, allowing you to progress to the slightly cheaper Flax Original.

The only people who are exceptions to this are diabetics and a very small number of people where the D6D is non functional – these people need to stay on Flax Boost.

Flax Original

New Zealand’s first home-grown Flax Seed oil hit the market over 17 years ago and has been New Zealand’s favourite Flax Seed oil ever since.

When you switch from Flax Boost to Flax Original, you need to be very aware of your physical and mental state. If it stays the same or continues to improve then your D6D enzyme pathway is functioning normally, which will be the case for most people. If you are one of the few where the D6D does not function normally then you will need to go back to eating Flax Boost.Flax Original has a Omega-6:Omega-3 ratio of 0.3, so if eaten regularly over 3 – 6 years will reduce the Omega-6:Omega-3 ratio of your body to close to the ideal 1:1 needed for optimum wellness.

Flax Balance

Contains Omega-6 and Omega-3 in equal amounts, so is designed to keep you in a state of wellness by providing balanced amounts of the key fats needed as building blocks for the millions of new cells your body creates every day. This is the diet your body evolved with and needs to have for optimum wellness.

How do you tell if your body has reached the desired 1:1 Omega-6/Omega-3 ratio?

Most likely it will be the return of the original symptoms that got onto taking Flax Seed oil in the first place.

How so?

These symptoms were caused by an imbalance of the Omega-6/Omega-3 ratio i.e. too much Omega-6. This time they will be caused by an excess of Omega-3 – which is easily fixed by switching to Flax Balance.

How long will it take before you are ready for Flax Balance?

It varies enormously of course because we are all different in the way we eat and live, which is why no one oil blend is right for everybody all of the time, as some “experts” would have us believe.

Tip of the Day

For an energy lift try making a smoothie of Flax Seed oil, yoghurt and some fresh or frozen berry fruit – the perfect way to consume Flax seed oil (more later)

Also see http://waihibush.co.nz/recipes.htm

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Are they pulling the ‘OIL’ over your eyes


This post aims to clarify how the oils you can buy are produced and how to tell good quality oils and be confident they will not damage your health.  

Seed Oils

These are all the type of oils you are being offered on the shelf in your local supermarket, don’t assume that all oil is equal so read the labels and ingredients carefully, a lot of oil is blended.

Cold pressed

This term means that the seed is extracted using a screw press, but the seed is not pre cooked to break down the cell structure and release more oil.  That does not mean that temperatures reached in this process are not high enough to start the breakdown of EFAs.  Cold pressed should mean quality oil, but in fact is often used on oil labels where the oil has been Refined (See below).

How can you tell unrefined oil? There is an easy infallible test – if it doesn’t smell and taste of the seed that came from, it has been refined.  

Unfortunately many of the “cold pressed” oils on the shelf have been refined, which involves some pretty nasty processes. (read on…)  

Expeller Pressed


The oil is extracted by a screw press and may or may not have been cooked, so the term is often used instead of cold pressed.  So while there has been no solvent use, it does not mean the oil has not been refined.

Solvent extracted 

Oils like soy, rice bran, grape seed and corn on the supermarket shelf are usually extracted the “modern” way, using an oil based solvent because this method is capable of cheaply extracting oil from low oil containing sources like these.

Hexane is the main solvent used and is a cheap byproduct of petroleum refining, so it’s a perfect solution to use it to extract oil from seeds cheaply – it surely doesn’t matter if it leaves a small residue in the oil?  Well maybe it is a neurotoxin, which can give the glue sniffers the high they are after – but hey?  


Refined oils

Most oils in the supermarket have been through the whole industrial process which involves: 

Cleaning & Cooking: 

The seeds are mechanically cleaned and then cooked at temperatures well over 100°C. This breaks down the cell structure to aid oil extraction, but such high temperatures start the oxidation process. 

Oil extraction:

The cooked seeds are expeller pressed at high pressures and temperature and the seed cake is then solvent extracted. The damaged oils which result from these processes need to be cleaned up so that they are palatable. 


Phosphoric acid and water are mixed with the oil to strip out the lecithin (which helps your body to digest oil), minerals and chlorophyll. 


Caustic soda or soda ash are added to settle out the damaged fats, waxes and phospholipids which can promote oxidation. But these two steps also take any naturally occurring antioxidants like Vitamin E or A. 


Fullers earth, activated clay or activated carbon are used to remove the last of the soaps and protective pigments. These three steps are all done at high temperatures, which cause substantial oxidation of the EFAs. 


Steam at destructively high temperatures and pressures is passed through the oil to remove all the volatile flavour components, some of the damaged oil fragments and any remaining natural antioxidants. 

What is left is a pale, bland flavourless, oil which contains damaged EFAs and is extremely susceptible to oxidation. 

Of course light is extremely damaging to oils, so to allow such oils to be put on the supermarket shelf in a clear plastic bottle, a synthetic antioxidant is added – many of these are suspected to promote cancer. 


What does this mean for the health of you and your children?

Refined oils are similar to white flour and white sugar in that they are empty calories with none of the cofactors needed for healthy metabolism.  

Yes, they do contain some undamaged Omega-6, but most people have way too much Omega-6 in their body anyway and you seriously need to cut down on the amount you eat.  

These oils also contain nasty byproducts of the refining process so are actively damaging to your health – your body uses the fats present in your bloodstream to make millions of new cells each day so you need to eat only undamaged fats.  

So what are your options for getting healthy undamaged oil from the supermarket?


The Good Oils to Cook with:

If you can find unrefined Macadamia, almond or canola oil they are high in Omega-9 and good to use.  

However there are really only two readily available options – Olive oil or Avocado oil and of these only the Virgin or Extra Virgin have not been solvent extracted or refined.  

These two oils come from the flesh of the olive or avocado, so are extracted by a very different method.  For supermarket oils the fruit is ground to break down the cell structure and churned to release the oil.  The fibre and juice are separated from the oil by a sophisticated centrifuge.  

The different grades are:  

Extra virgin

Solvent extraction is not permitted for virgin labeled oils.  Because there can be a lot of oxidation during the grinding and churning process, only oil that has been tested to have low damage and superior taste can be called extra virgin.  



Non solvent extracted oil which has lesser taste and higher levels of oxidation – but still good oil.  


This is a rather misleading name as you could think that this means lower calorie/fat which it isn’t. It is solvent extracted from the pomace after the virgin oils and has been refined so that it has no flavour components left. Not a healthy oil.  

The Good Oils Not to Cook with:

The unrefined nut and seed oils with high levels of Omega-6 – see Omega-6 blog, should not be used for cooking. Cooking exposes them to heat, light and oxygen all at once and the Omega-6 molecule is much more easily damaged than the Omega-9 molecule because of the extra double bond.  

Extra Virgin Flax seed oil is also a very healthy oil – see Omega-3 blog, but is even more easily damaged by cooking because Omega-3 contains 3 double bonds.  


Most oils in the supermarket have been so badly damaged in the manufacturing process that they are not fit to put into your body.
So don’t be fooled by the big letters saying ‘Cold Pressed’ – check the label to see if it is unrefined – if it doesn’t say unrefined assume it has been refined or try the taste.
The readily available good oils are Virgin and Extra Virgin Olive, Avocado and Flax Seed oils

Tip of the Day

A healthy and tasty  combination to use in cooking is about half and half butter and Virgin or Extra Virgin Olive oil (See Butter vs. Margarine blog)  


Check out the best oils at http://functionalwholefoods.co.nz/

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