Saturday, August 13, 2005


A long time before any cereal was grown, linseed has been used by Man for various purposes :
- Its fiber in the confection of clothes (flax)
- Its oil in preparation of paints and treatment of wood
- Its seed, crushed and cooked, in the diet of animals and humans.

Greeks and Romans, as testified by Hippocrates and Pliny, knew the nutri-functional properties of linseed ; during the Middle Ages, monks and monarchs, as natural heirs of Greco-roman civilization, encouraged cultivation of this vegetal all over Europe : as a consequence, the production of linseed and flax covered thousands of hectares until the XIXth century.

Nowadays, the biggest producer of flax in the world is Canada ; but the linseed varieties richest in Omega 3 alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) are grown in Europe, especially in France and Great-Britain.

Linseed nutri-functional benefits for animals have been now well and scientifically demonstrated in exhaustive research work : cooked linseed incorporated in animal diets improves zoo-technical performances, productivity and fertility in all species (dairy cows, sows, poultry, …)

Except young spring grass, linseed is the greatest provider of Omega 3 Poly-Unsaturated Fatty Acid (PUFA), through its high content in ALA ; but the increasing use of soya/cereals-based diets in intensive animal production, even in beef cattle, results in a lower proportion of these Omega 3 PUFA in milk, in meat and in eggs compared with traditional animal production.

Every day, we learn more and more about the important link between nutrition and health, and particularly between animal nutrition and human health.

This “food chain” concept has been developed by Professor Elton in the years twenties of last century : Elton explained that vegetal get energy from the light of the sun (through the photosynthesis), vegetal-eating animals get their energy from eating vegetal, and carnivores/omnivores animals get their energy from eating other animals.

The word "chain" means that all the steps are linked together, so anything that affects one "link" in the chain affects every step in the chain. The first step, the vegetal, is called the producer, and the differents steps coming after it are called consumers : to take an example, dairy cows and beef cattle eat young grass during spring and could be fed with diets including cooked linseed during the rest of the year ; humans drink cow’s milk and eat beef meat : so humans will have the benefits of Omega 3 PUFA through the eating-vegetal animal step. The reality is not so simple (as dairy cows and beef cattle eat others vegetal products and humans eat others animal products and also vegetal products); but chain or web, food remains obviously the link between all the animals.

The increasing interest in health benefits which are associated with the consumption of Omega 3 will increase the sales of various supplements and foods containing these PUFA ; as humans are not real vegetal-eating animals, but carnivore/omnivore ones, their sources of Omega 3 PUFA could be not only fatty fish, but also every animal product from animals -- either vegetal-eating animals (like dairy cows or beef cattle) or omnivore animals (like pigs) -- fed with diets including cooked linseed.


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