Fact vs. Fiction: The Truth About Flax & Seed Oils

June 13, 2024

Many of my followers contacted me after reading a recent blog article from Dr. Joseph Mercola demonizing flaxseed oil. If you’re familiar with my work, you know I’ve written about flax in many of my books for nearly 40 years. So, it only makes sense that I would hear from so many who want the flax facts clarified once and for all.

This is not the first time there’s been a firestorm of opposition to seed oils, and in my opinion, articles like this often come down to “clickbait.” In search of likes, clicks, and algorithm attention, many health practitioners hop on the latest bandwagon of “shock value” health discoveries and pseudoscience, sharing incomplete or sensationalized claims in order to stay relevant and influential to a society with an attention span now less than 8 seconds!

In this most recent case, almost immediately, many practitioners and individuals alike rushed to purge ALL seed oils from their pantries and refrigerators without a second thought or any critical thinking. To my surprise,  I watched the news spread like wildfire on social media.
But, being popular doesn’t make something true. And as I’ve learned time and time again in my 40+ year career, nothing is ever as it seems nor is nutritional science black and white. This is why I am always committed to digging deeper and doing the research to separate fact from fiction.

Setting the Record Straight on Seed Oils

I’m here to set the record straight and express my profound disappointment with those who blindly jumped on the bandwagon without doing their due diligence.

While many of the points floated in Dr. Mercola’s post are plausible and broadly factual, I find many of the statements to be more marketing than medical in nature and lacking in important details and distinctions.

For example, in a TikTok video titled, Why Seed Oils are Even More Dangerous Than Sugar, Dr. Mercola contends that the post-Civil War introduction of Industrial Processed Seed Oil is the culprit behind most chronic diseases and illnesses including:

  • Obesity
  • High Blood Pressure
  • Stroke
  • Diabetes
  • Alzheimer’s Disease
  • Even Cancer

Using loosely relevant statistics about oil consumption, half-life compared to sugar and other “shock value” revelations, I believe the post content is overly generalized and widely misleading and inaccurate, or lacking in sufficient context.

Now, while Dr. Mercola and I can agree that the seed oils used in the production of processed foods and even most cooking oils are both toxic and dangerous, he epically fails to differentiate between the “bad” oils (like cotton seed, canola, and soybean oil) and the incredible health benefits of many “good” seed oils (most notably CBD, black seed oil, pine nut oil, pumpkin seed oil, black currant seed oil, and evening primrose oil).

The issue with oils really comes down to processing—the process by which the oil is produced. The mass-produced commercial seed oils flooding the shelves of your local supermarket are low-quality, low-priced, overheated, and “chemicalized” to the point of toxicity.

I have long been a proponent of high-quality, organic, and natural seed oils. Flaxseed Oil, in particular, has been a staple ingredient at the core of my signature Fat Flush weight loss programs for decades.

Since I started researching fats decades ago, I’ve become adept at understanding their benefits and drawbacks. In my book Fat Flush Foods, for example, I discuss why flaxseed oil should be included as one of the essential elements in helping those struggling with weight. Flaxseed oil contains omega-3 essential fatty acids and along with GLA, plays an integral role in health, beauty, and weight loss. Essential fatty acid oils are just that – essential because we cannot manufacture them on our own. Instead, we must obtain these necessary elements through food intake.
Beyond being a dieter’s dream, flaxseed oil plays a critical role in healthy brain function, breast and prostate health,  proper thyroid and adrenal activity, and balanced hormones. It strengthens the immune system, helps maintain healthy blood and nerves, and breaks down cholesterol.
You can see why I consider flaxseed oil so vital to everyone’s health and wellness.

Fast Facts About Flax

So now that we understand that it is essential to consider the quality of seed oils within the context of a healthy diet, we can take note of how they can best be utilized. When purchased as organic and expeller pressed, it is fine to add small amounts of any seed oil to salads or to drizzle on veggies.

Here are some examples of quality seed oils that provide numerous health advantages when used properly.
  • Flaxseed oil is highly perishable and should be purchased in opaque bottles and kept refrigerated after opening.
  • Because heat destroys the sensitive fatty acids in flaxseed oil, you cannot *cook or bake with it. Avoid direct exposure to heat.
  • Fresh flaxseed oil has a sweet, nutty flavor. It can vary from brand to brand, so be sure to try several to find the one that suits you best. I personally find Omega Flaxseed Oil to be the mildest and best-tasting.
  • Blending flaxseed oil with other foods rather than taking it alone by the spoonful allows it to emulsify, which ensures better absorption of the essential fatty acids.
  • Flax plants grow well in most climates except for areas with searing hot or bitterly cold weather.
  • For centuries, freshly pressed flaxseed oil was sold by street vendors in northern Europe. After settling in North America, most colonists made planting flax a top priority.
  • Dry skin is the first—and most common—sign that you are deficient in omega-3 fatty acids.

The Basics: Flaxseed Oil Vs. Whole Flaxseeds

It is helpful to distinguish between flaxseed oil and whole flax seeds. Flaxseed oil may indeed be more susceptible to oxidation depending on how it’s produced and stored. In comparison, whole flax seeds contain fiber, lignans, and other health-promoting nutrients that offer numerous health benefits over their oil counterpart. Why? Their protective shell helps lower their vulnerability to oxidation.

Flaxseed oil offers many health advantages when produced and stored correctly. Studies have demonstrated that lignans present in flax seeds don’t contribute to hormonal imbalance; instead, they offer protection from certain cancers by acting as phytoestrogens and hormone modulators. They level out hormones to lower the risk linked to hormone-related cancers such as breast cancer and prostate cancer.

Flax seeds provide an abundant supply of dietary fiber that is beneficial for digestive health, regular bowel function and controlling blood sugar.

Misleading Industrial Usage Argument

Let’s get another misconception straight…

Flaxseed Oil: Produced specifically for human consumption, flaxseed oil is cold-pressed to retain its nutritional value and sold as a health food store dietary supplement due to its abundance of omega-3 fatty acids.

Linseed Oil: Linseed oil has long been utilized as an industrial ingredient, such as in paints, varnishes and wood finishing products. Its production often involves chemical or heat extraction methods which compromise nutritional quality, making it unsuitable for human consumption.

Many natural substances serve a multitude of uses and applications. Hemp is the first that comes to mind. It has been used for fuel, clothing, rope, and now as a food, dietary supplement, and medicine for a wide variety of health issues. However, an ingredient’s industrial past doesn’t disqualify it from being safe and beneficial as food.

Simply put, Industrial or commercial usage does not preclude a safe and beneficial application for use in food or health products.

Scientific Consensus on Flax Seeds

Many organizations, including the prestigious American Heart Association, recommend including flax seeds in your diet due to their varied nutrient profile and decades of research highlighting their advantages over potential risks.


Dismissing flax seeds solely due to their PUFA content or industrial applications is to ignore their many health benefits, which include heart health, hormone balance, and overall wellness. Instead of dismissing them outright, we should prioritize including flax seeds and flaxseed oil in an abundant and nutrient-rich diet plan as a key source of essential fatty acids, lignans and valuable proteins.


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Goyal A, Sharma V, Upadhyay N, Gill S & Sihag M (2014). Flaxseed oil as both ancient medicine and functional food. J Food Sci Technol 2014 Sep;51(9):1633-53; doi: 10.1007/s13197-013-1247-9 Epub January 10 PMID 25190822 PMCID 4152533.
Shayan M, Kamalian S, Sahebkar A and Tayarani-Najaran Z. Flaxseed for Health and Disease: Review of Clinical Trials. Comb Chem High Throughput Screen 2020;23(8):697-722 and doi: 10.2174/1386207323666200521121708 PMID 32436825.
Alasalvar C, Chang SK, Bolling B, Oh WY and Shahidi F are authors of Specialty Seeds: Nutrients, Bioactives, Bioavailability and Health Benefits – A Comprehensive Review, to be published by Compr Rev Food Sci Food Saf in 2021 May. PMID 33719194.
Merkher, Kontareva E, Alexandrova A, Javaraiah R, Pustovalova M and Leonov S. Anti-Cancer Properties of Flaxseed Proteome. Proteomes 2023 November 16;11(4):37. PMID 37987317 and PMCID 106612689 are two sources for information regarding flaxseed proteome properties that could help fight cancer.
Sala-Vila A, Fleming J, Kris-Etherton P & Ros E. Effect of Vegetable Omega-3 Fatty Acids such as Linolenic Acid on Cardiovascular Disease and Cognition. Advance Nutrition 2022 Oct 2;13(5):1584-1602. doi: 10.1093/advances/nmac016 PMID 35170723 PMCID 9526859.

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Ann Louise Gittleman, PhD, CNS, is an award-winning New York Times bestselling author of more than thirty books including The Fat Flush Plan series and her latest book, Radical Metabolism. She’s been rewriting the rules of nutrition for more than 40 years and is internationally recognized as a pioneer in the field of diet, detox and women’s health issues. 

For a FREE daily dose of tips and strategies for maintaining healthy weight, conquering insomnia, and much more…check out my Radical Health Tips.

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1 Comment

  1. Lynn

    I always did well on flaxseed and believe it has its place in all of this info on PUFA oils. Have you read Ray Peat’s research on PUFA oils (that is what everyone is following these days – along with other research). I don’t know how much we can trust science these days due to all of the influence by big corps today.


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