Historical note For over 5000 years flaxseed in its various forms has been a part of the diet of people in Asia, Africa and Europe. It has a long history of use as both a food and a medicine, with the seed being most commonly used. The oil was also popular and has been a traditional food of the Egyptians from the time of the Pharaohsto the present day. The oil is also consumed bythe Chinese, who documented its medicinal properties in the Pen-T's AO, the Great Chinese Pharmacopeia (Judd 1 995). Its Latin name usitatissimum means 'most useful', suggesting its various uses have been recognised for centuries (Kolodziejczyk & Fedec 1 995). Interestingly research into its nutritional properties and effects on human health were not studied in earnest until the 1 980s (Cunane & Thompson 1 995). In Australia in 1 981, cultivation of a lowalpha-linolenic acid variety, now known as Linola, was pioneered in an attempt to improve the stability of the oil and increase its commercial viability as a cooking oil. Such modifications were successful and resulted in ALA content <3.0% and a higher concentration of linoleic acid than the naturally occurring form (Bhatty 1995). These modified oils are not used for medicinal purposes.
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