Health Benefits of Ground Flaxseed: Glucose, Cholesterol Regulation, Anti-Cancer Properties, and More
Source: J Food Sci Technol (September 2014)
Lifestyle Medicine Update (March 11, 2021)
In the previous Lifestyle Medicine Update, I explained the health benefits of supplementing with flaxseed oil, which is high in the omega-3 fat ALA (alpha-linolenic acid). It shows promise in helping to keep blood pressure down, preventing atrial fibrillation, suppressing inflammation, and possibly exerting some anti-cancer properties. In this update, I want to highlight the research showing the health benefits of also ingesting ground flaxseed on a daily basis. Flaxseeds are a rich source of cholesterol-lowering fiber (soluble fiber) colon cleaning fiber (insoluble fiber) and contain 800-times more lignans than any other food source on the planet. It is the presence of these unique lignans that make flaxseeds superior to other seeds such as hemp seeds, chia seeds, and others. The lignans in flaxseed are readily metabolized by gut bacteria into two highly impressive phytonutrients known as enterolactone and enterodiol, which get absorbed into the bloodstream from the large intestine. Enterolactone and enterodiol help to counter the overstimulating effects of estrogen in the body, and thus, have been shown to have anti-proliferative effects. This means that they slow down the rate of cell division, which is a crucial step in the prevention of breast, endometrial and prostate cancer, tissues where ground flaxseed has shown impressive anti-cancer effects.
As stated in the 2014 review paper, “Flax lignans have shown promising effects in reducing the growth of cancerous tumors, especially hormone-sensitive ones such as those of the breast, endometrium, and prostate.” In placebo-controlled human clinical trials, ground flaxseed supplementation has reversed fibrocystic breast disease in women and has slowed the rate of prostate cancer cell division in men awaiting prostate cancer surgery. These studies demonstrate the anti-proliferative effects of ground flaxseed in humans, whereby slowing the rate of cell division reverses biological mechanisms involved in fibrocystic breast disease and prostate cancer growth. In the 2018 review of flaxseed and breast cancer, in the Journal Frontiers of Nutrition, the researcher state, “animal studies found that the intake of flaxseed combined with tamoxifen can reduce (breast) tumor size to a greater extent than taking tamoxifen alone. Additionally, some clinical trials showed that flaxseed can have an important role in decreasing breast cancer risk, mainly in postmenopausal women. Further studies are needed, specifically clinical trials that may demonstrate the potential benefits of flaxseed in breast cancer.”
As well, the high soluble fiber content of ground flaxseed has been shown in diabetic patients to lower blood sugar (glucose) and hemoglobin A1c (a longer-term assessment of blood sugar regulation) as well as lowering the bad cholesterol – LDL-cholesterol. Even if you’re not a diabetic, most people benefit from lowering their fasting blood sugar to some degree as well as their hemoglobin A1c, and their LDL-cholesterol. I say this because even though most people are not diabetics, most people do not have glucose, hemoglobin A1c, and LDL- cholesterol levels within, what has been identified, as the ideal range for longevity and healthy life expectancy. The insoluble fiber in ground flaxseed has been shown to help improve some cases of irritable bowel syndrome and improve bowel regularity, in general. My strong personal recommendation is to ingest 2 tablespoons of ground flaxseed per day, as a part of an overall wellness prevention program throughout adult life. I add it to my morning protein shake, but it can be sprinkled on to cereal, mixed into juices or baked into low-fat muffins or other bread or baked goods. Ground flaxseed is truly one of the most underappreciated true health and functional foods on the planet.
I have included the references for this information in the text below.
1. Main Reference:
Goyal Ankit et al. Flax and flaxseed oil: An ancient medicine & modern functional food. J Food Sci Technol 214, 51(9):1633-1653
2. Flaxseed and Fibrocystic Breast Disease (Mastalgia) https://www.researchgate.net/publication/317150397_Flaxseed_A_Good_Idea_for_Reduction_of_Mastalgia_Breast_Pain_and_Risk_of_Breast_Cancer
3. Flaxseed and Breast Cancer Review (2018) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC58083 39/
4. Flaxseed and Prostate Cancer: https://www.naturalmedicinejournal.com/journal/2014-02/flaxseeds-reduce-prostate-cancer-aggressiveness
Eat Smart, Live Well, Look Great
Dr. James Meschino
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Dr. James Meschino, DC, MS, ROHP, is an educator, author, and researcher having lectured to thousands of healthcare professionals across North America. He holds a Master’s Degree in Science with specialties in human nutrition and biology and is recognized as an expert in the field of nutrition, anti-aging, fitness, and wellness as well as the author of numerous books.