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Flaxseed and its lignans may offer protection against breast, prostate, colon, and skin cancers while the soluble fibre they contain could help maintain steady blood sugar levels, found a review of research into the seed. The study review evaluated current research on flaxseed and any potential benefits it may have against diabetes and certain cancers.
Flaxseed has been the focus of increased interest in the field of diet and disease research due to the potential health benefits associated with some of its biologically active components: oil containing approximately 59 % alpha-linolenic acid (ALA – an omega 3 fatty acid) and the presence of plant lignans.
The researchers from Canada, England and China, summarized that the health benefits from flaxseed Lignans are due to their antioxidant activity, primarily from the hydroxyl radical scavengers and also due to their antiestrogenic compounds and the structural similarity to 17-b-estradiol; preventing its negative growth effects.
Their paper states that SDG, the major Lignan in Flax Seed, once ingested, is converted in the colon into active mammalian lignans, enterodiol (END) and enterolactone (ENL). These have shown promise in reducing the growth of cancerous tumors especially hormone-sensitive ones such as those of the breast, endometrial tissue, and prostate.
When it comes to diabetes low-glycemic-index foods containing soluble fibre may not only prevent certain metabolic ramifications of insulin resistance, but also reduce insulin resistance, noted the authors, citing a study whereby flaxseed was shown to reduce the postprandial blood glucose response in humans. “A consumption of 50 g/d ground flaxseed by young females over a 4-wk period caused a reduction in blood glucose levels (Cunnane et al 1993). Similar findings were observed in postmenopausal women fed a 40 g/d flaxseed fortification diet (Lemay et al 2002),” they stated. The study is published online ahead of print in the journal Comprehensive Reviews in Food Science and Food Safety