What Is Linolenic Acid (18:3) & What Foods Can I Find It In?

3D-model of Linolenic acid (18:3) (src)

Linolenic acid, 18:3, is an essential polyunsaturated conjugated fatty acid.

Essential means that we must obtain it from our diet because our body requires it for good health but cannot synthesize it.

Linolenic acid tends to occur at much lower levels in the tissues of the body than linoleic acid.

Linolenic acid is mostly found in foods like sunflower seeds, walnuts, and flaxseeds.

Table of Contents

Linolenic Acid Is Essential

18:3, Linolenic acid is an essential fatty acid. (source )

The body cannot synthesize linolenic acid and therefore must be supplied by the diet. (source )

Linolenic acid is needed to synthesize eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). (source )

Linolenic Acid In Omega 3 And 6

Linolenic acids are found in both omega-6 (n-6) and omega-3 (n-3) in this fatty acid family.

Linolenic acid is the parent compound of a number of different omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids found in plants and animals.

N-6 is called gamma-linolenic acid, and n-3 is called alpha-linolenic acid. (source )

Benefits Of Linolenic Acid

Linolenic acid is beneficial for human health because it can be converted to eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) in the body.

These two fatty acids can reduce the risk of coronary heart disease and rheumatoid arthritis.

Linolenic Acid VS Linoleic Acid

Linolenic acid tends to be more readily stored as such in tissues, and therefore, the conversion of linolenic acid to linoleic acid will have a greater impact on the overall concentration of the fatty acids in the body.

Thus, the ratio of linoleic to linolenic acids is particularly important in terms of their potential effect on the body, as well as the potential for any adverse effects.

The dietary intake of the two fatty acids is not the same. The ratio of linoleic to linolenic acid in the diet varies widely. Some fish and other seafood contain a high proportion of omega-3 fatty acids, as do some plant oils such as flaxseed oil.

Foods You Can Find Linolenic Acid (18:3) In

A bunch of walnuts
Walnuts contains linolenic acid

You find Linolenic Acid (18:3) mostly in fats and oil, and nut and seed products.

Examples of food sources include

Foods in our nutrition tool

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If you are interested in what foods contain the most Linolenic Acid (18:3) we recommend you visit our tool.

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Sara Niemelä

co-founder Care Omnia, Head Content Creator

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Nutrition is my passion. I've spent thousands upon thousands of hours reading, analyzing, categorizing and comparing research studies.

I’m a wife and a mother of three. I enjoy the outdoors, cooking, and spending time with my family.