Picture of Linolenic acid (ALA)

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Linolenic acid (ALA) structure
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Picture of Linolenic acid (ALA)

C18 H30 O2

The isomer (alpha)-linolenic acid (ALA) is an omega-3 fatty acid, is essential for all mammals. Rich food sources for ALA are chia and flaxseed. It is also found in various oils, namely mustard oil, flaxseed oil, canola (rapeseed) oil, soybean oil, pumpkin seed oil, perilla seed oil, and walnut oil.

Various studies have shown that ALA is related to lower risk of cardiovascular disease. However, the mechanism of this is still unclear. It is postulated that either ALA after conversion to longer chain fatty acids DHA and EPA or by itself can reduce cardiac arrythmias. However, some studies have also linked alpha-linolenic acid with rapidly progressing prostate cancer and macular degeneration.

Omega-3 fatty acids are polyunsaturated fatty acids found in oil from oily fish and vegetable sources such as the seeds of chia, perilla, flax, purslane, lingonberry and hemp. Omega-3 fatty acids are classified as essential fatty acids. Common omega-3 fatty acids in the human body are linolenic acid, eicosapentaenoic acid, and docosahexaenoic acid.

Formal Chemical Name (IUPAC)
(9Z,12Z,15Z)-octadeca-9,12,15-trienoic acid




Update by Karl Harrison
(Molecule of the Month for March 2006 )