Alpha-Linolenic acid (ALA) is an essential polyunsaturated n-3 fatty acid with an 18-carbon chain and three cis-double bonds. ALA is an essential fatty acid that is required for health and is used in the biosynthesis of arachidonic acid (AA) and of prostaglandins.
The synthesis of DHA and EPA from α-linolenic acid is not very efficient.
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Alpha-linolenic acid is important in overall health maintenance including:
- Lowers the risk of cardiovascular disease.
- Daily consumption of ALA is neuroprotective and decreases ischemia, epilepsy.
- May decrease depression.
- Seed oils are richest source of α-linolenic acid including rapeseed (canola), soybeans, walnuts, flaxseed (linseed oil), perilla, chia and hemp.
- Vegetable oil is also high in α-linolenic acid.
- Soybeans are one of the most source of α-linolenic acid.
Food sources of α-linolenic acid, such as vegetable oils, are often used in the manufacturing of food products. In order to prolong shelf life and to create desired texture and spreadability vegetable oils are put through a hydrogenation process that converts the oil to either a partially hydrogenated oil or to a trans fat which is an unhealthy oil. Hydrogenation involves reacting the oils with hydrogen gas under pressure and high heat with the aid of a catalyst such as platinum oxide.