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Is taking flaxseed/linseed oil the same as taking omega-3 fish oil?

Q) I have rheumatoid arthritis. In your Q&A correspondence, the benefit of omega-3 from fish oil is mentioned. Can the same benefit be gained from flaxseed/linseed oil as a vegetarian alternative, which is claimed to contain omega-3, omega-6 and omega-9, together with palmitic acid and stearic acid? Also, can the immuno-suppressive effect of 10 mg methotrexate daily, together with other drugs, taken for some years, be a reason why my colds this year have dragged on over weeks into months?
Keith, via email (Winter 2013)

A) For your first question, the crucial factor is the amount of omega-3 and omega-6 oil in the alternative dietary supplements. I have heard that flaxseed and linseed oil are acceptable alternatives to fish oil but you will have to compare the amounts of the constituents in order to make sure that you are getting the same amount. For your second question, although the weekly dose of methotrexate you take is small, patients taking this medication often say that they seem to suffer more colds and flu, and that they take longer to go away. On another note, if you are taking methotrexate it is recommended that you have an annual flu jab, and a jab for pneumonia every 10 years. You should be able to get these from your GP.

This answer was provided by Dr Philip Helliwell for the Winter 2013 edition of our magazine, Arthritis Today, and was correct at the time of publication.

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