The Benefits of Flaxseed
Is flaxseed the new wonder food? Preliminary studies show that it may help fight heart disease, diabetes and breast cancer.
The Health Benefits of Flax continued...
Two components in flaxseed, ALA and lignans, may reduce the inflammation that accompanies certain illnesses (such as Parkinson's disease and asthma) by helping block the release of certain pro-inflammatory agents, Fitzpatrick says.
ALA has been shown to decrease inflammatory reactions in humans. And studies in animals have found that lignans can decrease levels of several pro-inflammatory agents.
Reducing inflammation associated with plaque buildup in the arteries may be another way flaxseed helps prevent heart attack and strokes.
One study of menopausal women, published in 2007, reported that 2 tablespoons of ground flaxseed mixed into cereal, juice, or yogurt twice a day cut their hot flashes in half. The intensity of their hot flashes also dropped by 57%. The women noticed a difference after taking the daily flaxseed for just one week and achieved the maximum benefit within two weeks.
But another study reported no significant reduction in hot flashes between postmenopausal women and breast cancer patients eating a bar containing 410 milligrams of phytoestrogens from ground flaxseed and women eating a placebo bar.
The results, says Thompson, are consistent with other studies that have shown no siginifcant difference in the effect on hot flashes between flaxseed and placebo
Flaxseed Isn't a Magic Bullet
It's tempting to think of flaxseed as a super food because of its many potential health benefits. But keep in mind there is no magic food or nutrient that guarantees improved health.
What matters is consistently making great dietary choices as part of an overall healthy lifestyle.
Who Shouldn’t Use Flaxseed?
Until more is known, Thompson says, pregnant women and possibly breastfeeding mothers should not supplement their diets with ground flaxseed.
"Our own animal studies showed that flaxseed exposure during these stages may be protective against breast cancer in the offspring. But a study of another investigator showed the opposite effect," Thompson says.
Tips for Using Flaxseed
Many experts believe it's better to consume flaxseed than flax oil (which contains just part of the seed) so you get all the components. But stay tuned as researchers continue to investigate.