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Flaxseed Research

March 12, 2012 Written by JP    [Font too small?]

Several of the most pressing health care issues of the moment can be vastly improved by making a few minor alterations to the modern diet. The addition of more dietary fiber, omega 3 fatty acids and phytochemicals into our daily menu plan is a great starting point. An economical and simple way to do so is by including more (ground) flaxseeds into common foods such a hot cereals, muffins and yogurt.

Over the past year or so, several studies have been published which elucidate the far reaching health promoting potential of flax meal. What’s most interesting about the recent data is that it reveals that eating between 15 – 60 grams of ground flax daily affords numerous levels of protection against diabetes, heart disease and obesity. The mechanisms involved often overlap, but the end result is an almost certain improvement in overall health conferred by the regular consumption of flax in meals and snacks.

To begin with, flaxseed intake benefits the heart and waistline by lowering LDL (“bad”) cholesterol by up to 15% and increases calorie and fat excretion by up to 50%. In addition, flaxseeds have also been shown to suppress hunger, reduce caloric intake and support healthier leptin levels – a hormone which plays a pivotal role in weight management. Other positive findings of late indicate that flax consumption: improves insulin sensitivity and, thereby, lowers diabetes risk and fat accumulation; decreases systemic inflammation and discourages poor circulation (prothrombotic profiles) in overweight adults. Because of these positive findings and others, researchers have even initiated a study to evaluate the effect of flax supplementation in patients living with peripheral artery disease or PAD.

It’s also interesting to note that scientists are beginning to closely examine the antioxidant content of flaxseeds. In particular, a phytochemical known as caffeic acid has been identified in flax. This is a potent antioxidant with anti-cancer, anti-inflammatory and antiviral properties that is typically found in cherries, coffee and kiwi. It seems the more science learns about flax, the more reason there is to recommend it.

Note: Please check out the “Comments & Updates” section of this blog – at the bottom of the page. You can find the latest research about this topic there!

To learn more about the studies referenced in today’s column, please click on the following links:

Study 1 – Flaxseed Dietary Fibers Lower Cholesterol and Increase Fecal Fat (link)

Study 2 – Flaxseed Dietary Fiber Supplements for Suppression of Appetite and (link)

Study 3 – The Alpha Linolenic Acid Content of Flaxseed is Associated with(link)

Study 4 – Flaxseed Supplementation Improved Insulin Resistance in Obese (link)

Study 5 – Systemic Inflammation and Carotid Diameter in Obese Patients (link)

Study 6 – The Effect of Dietary Flaxseed on Improving Symptoms of (link)

Study 7 – Presence of Caffeic Acid in Flaxseed Lignan Macromolecule (link)

Study 8 – Caffeic Acid, A Versatile Pharmacophore: An Overview (link)

Study 9 – Polyphenols: Food Sources and Bioavailability (link)

Study 10 – Effects of Diets High in Walnuts and Flax Oil on Hemodynamic (link)

Eating Flaxseeds Regularly Improves Insulin Resistance (HOMA-IR)

Source: Nutrition Journal 2011, 10:44 (link)

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Posted in Food and Drink, Heart Health, Nutrition

10 Comments & Updates to “Flaxseed Research”

  1. Mary Brighton Says:

    Flaxseed oil is probably the most healthiest oils available. Daily dose on salad is a great way to add some of this precious oil to the diet.
    I like that you provide the links to studies at the end of your article. Great idea.

  2. JP Says:

    I like flaxseed oil, but I really, really like freshly ground seeds. In the seeds, you get the beneficial fatty acid plus a fair share of health promoting fiber, phytochemicals and protein. An excellent food.

    PS – Sprouted flax seed meal is even better – though more expensive and harder to find.

    Be well!


  3. JP Says:

    Update: Flax supports cardiovascular health and weight loss …


    Impact of weight loss diet associated with flaxseed on inflammatory markers in men with cardiovascular risk factors: a clinical study – Nutrition Journal 2015, 14:5

    “Despite limitations, this study suggests that in the evaluated population, weight loss dietcould be an important strategy to reduce inflammation markers such as CRP and TNF-α. Also, flaxseed could contribute to this outcome. Moreover, reductions observed in blood pressure and central adiposity could additionally protect against cardiovascular diseases.”

    Be well!


  4. JP Says:

    Update: Flax seeds lower LDL (“bad”) cholesterol in PAD patients …


    J Nutr. 2015 Feb 18. pii: jn.114.204594.

    Dietary Flaxseed Independently Lowers Circulating Cholesterol and Lowers It beyond the Effects of Cholesterol-Lowering Medications Alone in Patients with Peripheral Artery Disease.

    BACKGROUND: Dietary flaxseed lowers cholesterol in healthy subjects with mild biomarkers of cardiovascular disease (CVD).

    OBJECTIVE: The aim was to investigate the effects of dietary flaxseed on plasma cholesterol in a patient population with clinically significant CVD and in those administered cholesterol-lowering medications (CLMs), primarily statins.

    METHODS: This double-blinded, randomized, placebo-controlled trial examined the effects of a diet supplemented for 12 mo with foods that contained either 30 g of milled flaxseed [milled flaxseed treatment (FX) group; n = 58] or 30 g of whole wheat [placebo (PL) group; n = 52] in a patient population with peripheral artery disease (PAD). Plasma lipids were measured at 0, 1, 6, and 12 mo.

    RESULTS: Dietary flaxseed in PAD patients resulted in a 15% reduction in circulating LDL cholesterol as early as 1 mo into the trial (P = 0.05). The concentration in the FX group (2.1 ± 0.10 mmol/L) tended to be less than in the PL group (2.5 ± 0.2 mmol/L) at 6 mo (P = 0.12), but not at 12 mo (P = 0.33). Total cholesterol also tended to be lower in the FX group than in the PL group at 1 mo (11%, P = 0.05) and 6 mo (11%, P = 0.07), but not at 12 mo (P = 0.24). In a subgroup of patients taking flaxseed and CLM (n = 36), LDL-cholesterol concentrations were lowered by 8.5% ± 3.0% compared with baseline after 12 mo. This differed from the PL + CLM subgroup (n = 26), which increased by 3.0% ± 4.4% (P = 0.030) to a final concentration of 2.2 ± 0.1 mmol/L.Conclusions: Milled flaxseed lowers total and LDL cholesterol in patients with PAD and has additional LDL-cholesterol-lowering capabilities when used in conjunction with CLMs.

    Be well!


  5. JP Says:

    pdate: Flax oil may protect the brain from stroke damage and possibly promote recovery …


    Nutrition Journal 2015, 14:20

    Oral consumption of α-linolenic acid increases serum BDNF levels in healthy adult humans

    Background aims Dietary omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids have remarkable impacts on the levels of DHA in the brain and retina. Low levels of DHA in plasma and blood hamper visual and neural development in children and cause dementia and cognitive decline in adults. The level of brain-derived neurotrophic factors (BDNF) changes with dietary omega-3 fatty acid intake. BDNF is known for its effects on promoting neurogenesis and neuronal survival. Methods In this study, we examined the effect of the oral consumption of α-Linolenic acid (ALA) on blood levels of BDNF and Malondialdehyde (MDA) in healthy adult humans. 30 healthy volunteers, 15 men and 15 women, were selected randomly. Each individual served as his or her own control. Before consuming the Flaxseed oil capsules, 5cc blood from each individual was sampled in order to measure the plasma levels of BDNF and MDA as baseline controls. During the experiment, each individual was given 3 oral capsules of flaxseed oil, containing 500mg of alpha linolenic acid, daily for one week. Then, plasma levels of BDNF and MDA were tested. Results The plasma levels of BDNF and MDA significantly (P < 0.05) increased in individuals who received the oral capsules of ALA. Plasma levels of BDNF increased more in the women in comparison with the men. Conclusion ALA treatment could be a feasible approach to reduce size of infarcts in stroke patients. Thus, ALA could be used in adjunction with routine stroke therapies to minimize brain lesions caused by stroke.

    Be well!


  6. JP Says:

    Update 05/18/15:


    Holistic Nursing Practice: May/June 2015 – Volume 29 – Issue 3 – p 151–157

    The Effects of Flaxseed on Menopausal Symptoms and Quality of Life

    The purpose of this study was to analyze the effects of flaxseed on menopausal symptoms and quality of life throughout the menopausal period. The empirical research was conducted in an obstetrics and gynecology outpatient department of a university hospital and involved 140 menopausal women who were divided into 4 groups. The menopausal symptoms decreased and the quality of life increased among the women who used flaxseed for 3 months.

    Be well!


  7. JP Says:

    Update 07/10/15:


    Br J Nutr. 2015 Jul 2:1-12.

    Dietary modulation of the gut microbiota – a randomised controlled trial in obese postmenopausal women.

    The gut microbiota has been implicated in obesity and its progression towards metabolic disease. Dietary interventions that target the gut microbiota have been suggested to improve metabolic health. The aim of the present study was to investigate the effect of interventions with Lactobacillus paracasei F19 or flaxseed mucilage on the gut microbiota and metabolic risk markers in obesity. A total of fifty-eight obese postmenopausal women were randomised to a single-blinded, parallel-group intervention of 6-week duration, with a daily intake of either L. paracasei F19 (9·4 × 1010 colony-forming units), flaxseed mucilage (10 g) or placebo. Quantitative metagenomic analysis of faecal DNA was performed to identify the changes in the gut microbiota. Diet-induced changes in metabolic markers were explored using adjusted linear regression models. The intake of flaxseed mucilage over 6 weeks led to a reduction in serum C-peptide and insulin release during an oral glucose tolerance test (P< 0·05) and improved insulin sensitivity measured by Matsuda index (P< 0·05). Comparison of gut microbiota composition at baseline and after 6 weeks of intervention with flaxseed mucilage showed alterations in abundance of thirty-three metagenomic species (P< 0·01), including decreased relative abundance of eight Faecalibacterium species. These changes in the microbiota could not explain the effect of flaxseed mucilage on insulin sensitivity. The intake of L. paracasei F19 did not modulate metabolic markers compared with placebo. In conclusion, flaxseed mucilage improves insulin sensitivity and alters the gut microbiota; however, the improvement in insulin sensitivity was not mediated by the observed changes in relative abundance of bacterial species. Be well! JP

  8. JP Says:

    Updated 11/07/15:


    Clin Interv Aging. 2015 Oct 22;10:1679-85.

    Additive effect of linseed oil supplementation on the lipid profiles of older adults.

    BACKGROUND: Linseed oil has been investigated as a rich source of n-3 series polyunsaturated fatty acids, which mainly produce a non-atherogenic lipid profile. The objective of this study was to investigate the effect of linseed oil supplementation associated with nutritional guidelines on the lipid profiles of older adults, according to the intake of saturated fatty acids (SFA).

    METHODS: We conducted a double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial with 110 older adults randomized in two groups: placebo and linseed oil. The linseed oil group received supplementation with 3 g of linseed oil. Both groups received nutritional guidance and were supplemented for 90 days with monthly blood collection for biochemical analysis. The dietary intake of saturated fat was subdivided into low (<7% SFA/day of the total energy value) and high consumption groups (>7% SFA/day of the total energy value).

    RESULTS: Low SFA (<7% SFA/day of total energy value) consumption was associated with lower total cholesterol concentrations. However, we observed that the linseed oil group, including older adults who consumed >7% SFA/day, had a greater reduction in total cholesterol than the placebo group (P=0.020). The same was observed for low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol (P<0.050), suggesting an additive effect of linseed oil and diet. High-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol concentrations were increased significantly in only the linseed group, suggesting that the nutritional intervention alone did not improve HDL cholesterol.

    CONCLUSION: The results suggest that the nutritional intervention was effective, but linseed oil showed notable effects by increasing the HDL cholesterol concentration. In addition, consumption of <7% SFA/day of the total energy value increased the effect of linseed oil, demonstrating the importance of reducing the consumption of saturated fat.

    Be well!


  9. JP Says:

    Updated 10/31/18:


    Nutr Cancer. 2018 Oct 30:1-14.

    Effect of Dietary Flaxseed Intake on Circulating Sex Hormone Levels among Postmenopausal Women: A Randomized Controlled Intervention Trial.

    Lignan intake, and its richest food source, flaxseed, have been associated with reduced breast cancer risk. Endogenous sex hormones, such as estrogens, play a role in breast cancer development, and lignans may alter these sex hormone levels. To assess the effect of flaxseed on circulating sex hormones, a randomized controlled trial was conducted among 99 postmenopausal women in Toronto, Canada. The intervention arm consumed 2 tablespoons (15 g) of ground flaxseed daily for 7 weeks; the control arm maintained usual diet. Baseline and week 7 concentrations of 14 serum sex hormones were measured using liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry (LC-MS/MS) and immunoassay, and serum enterolignans (lignan biomarker) using LC-MS/MS. Intervention effects on sex hormone levels were assessed using analysis of covariance. Serum enterolignans increased among the flaxseed arm (+516%). Women consuming flaxseed (vs. controls) had increased serum 2-hydroxyestrone [treatment effect ratio (TER) = 1.54; 95% CI: 1.18-2.00] and 2:16α-hydroxyestrone ratio (TER =1.54; 95% CI: 1.15-2.06); effects on other hormones were not statistically significant. Within the flaxseed arm, change in enterolignan level was positively correlated with changes in 2-hydroxyestrone and 2:16α-hydroxyestrone ratio, and negatively with prolactin. Findings suggest flaxseed affects certain circulating sex hormone levels with possible implications for future breast cancer prevention research.

    Be well!


  10. JP Says:

    Updated 03/08/19:


    Int J Vitam Nutr Res. 2019 Mar 7:1-8.

    Flaxseed Supplementation Improves Anthropometric measurements, Metabolic, and Inflammatory Biomarkers in Overweight and Obese Adults.

    BACKGROUND: The aim of this study was to assess the effects of supplementation with flaxseed on anthropometric measurements, lipid profile, insulin resistance, and inflammatory biomarkers in overweight and obese adults.

    METHODS: Fifty overweight and obese adults with body mass index (BMI) of 30.72 ± 3.31 kg/m2 participated in this study. Participants were randomly assigned to take lifestyle advice or lifestyle advice plus 30 g/day milled flaxseed for 12 weeks. The primary outcome was body weight; secondary outcomes included other anthropometric parameters, lipid profile and inflammatory biomarkers.

    RESULTS: At the end of the study, the following significant mean differences were seen in flaxseed and control groups, respectively: weight [-9.36 vs. -3.09 kg; P < 0.001], BMI [-3.34 vs. -1.2 kg/m2; P < 0.001], triglyceride [-62.88 vs. -9.85 mg/dL; P < 0.001], total cholesterol [-32.2 vs. -14.95; P = 0.04], homeostatic model assessment (HOMA-IR) [1.25 vs. -0.32; P = 0.024], high sensitive- C reactive protein [-2.2 vs. -1.01 mmol/L; P < 0.001] and tumor necrosis factor-α [-1.34 vs. -0.14 Pg/mL; P = 0.005]. CONCLUSION: These results suggest that flaxseed supplementation in addition to lifestyle modification is significantly superior to lifestyle modification alone for weight loss. More studies with different dosages of flaxseed are needed to find the optimal dosage. Be well! JP

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