Learn More About Flax Seed
According to Flax Facts (say that fast 10 times), flax is a plant that has been around for 5,000 years. The ancient Egyptians used the inside of its stem to make linen cloth. However, I’m sure you don’t give a hooey about linen cloth.
Instead, you like flax because it has those amazing fatty acids that are good for you. Flax has a high concentration of polyunsaturated fatty acids, especially the omega-3 fatty acids, with over 50% of it being alpha-linolenic acid. Don’t try to memorize these tongue-twister names. Just know that these are good fats!
Who needs it?
You do my friend! Actually, anyone on a low calorie or low fat diet should supplement with flax. And if you aren’t a fish or fish oil consumer, then flax is even more important because it does give you those important omega-3 fats. Bodybuilders and fitness/figure competitors love to use flax in their protein shakes to give it a better healthier protein shake!
What does the science show?
You mean those guys in white lab coats with limited social skills but maximal brain power? Oh! Well, the science is indeed pretty darn cool. We of course know that flax seed oil and flax seed meal are good sources of omega-3 fatty acids. One study showed that flax may be effective chemopreventive agents.1 That means it may help protect you against cancer. Hey, that’ll make the American Cancer Society proud.
Another cool thing about flax is that it’s good for the kidneys. In fact, scientists undertook a study to determine whether whole flaxseed and flax oil, a rich source of ALA-alpha-linolenic acid, could help polycystic kidney disease. And indeed that’s what they found.2
Did you know that the fatty acids in flax may even be good for your bones? That’s right! Read on. Subjects consumed a particular diet for 6 weeks in a randomized, 3-period crossover design; each diet had different levels of ALA or alpha-linolenic acid, which are found in flaxseed oil. The results of this study indicated that plant sources of dietary n-3 PUFA (i.e. flax) may have a protective effect on bone metabolism via a decrease in bone resorption in the presence of consistent levels of bone formation.3 And that my friends, is good news.
Perhaps the best study is one in which scientists studied the effects of flaxseed on markers of cardiovascular risk in hypercholesterolemic adults (i.e. adults with high cholesterol!). Sixty-two men and post-menopausal women with pre-study low density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C) between 130 and 200 mg/dl were randomized to 40 grams per day of ground flaxseed-containing baked products or matching wheat bran products for 10 weeks while following a low fat, low cholesterol diet.
Fasting lipoproteins, measures of insulin resistance, inflammation, oxidative stress, and safety were assessed at 0, 5 and 10 weeks. What did they find? Flaxseed was well-tolerated, and increased serum levels of ALA, a healthy fat. Compared to wheat, flaxseed significantly reduced LDL-C at 5 weeks by 13%, reduced lipoprotein a by a net of 14% and reduced insulin resistance.4 In a nutshell, this stuff is heart healthy. Better than that lard you cook with or that bacon grease you love.
Is it safe?
Of course it is! The scientific info on flax is amazing! It’s the richest known source of both alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) and the phytoestrogen, lignans, as well as being a good source of soluble fiber. Human studies have shown that flaxseed can modestly reduce serum total and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol concentrations, reduce postprandial glucose absorption, decrease some markers of inflammation, and raise serum levels of the omega-3 fatty acids, ALA and eicosapentaenoic acid.5 And that my friend, means it’s good for you!
How much flax oil or flaxseed should I take?
More than you’re taking now! Most of us probably don’t get enough health fat. So start today. Don’t wait until next year, the New Year or when you finally graduate from grad school. Here’s my advice. Start at 1 tablespoon (flaxseed oil, ground flaxseed or both; this is roughly 40 kcal, 2.8 grams of fat, 1.5 grams of which are omega-3s.)
Jose Antonio PhD is the CEO of the International Society of Sports Nutrition.
1. Williams D, Verghese M, Walker LT, Boateng J, Shackelford L, Chawan CB. Flax seed oil and flax seed meal reduce the formation of aberrant crypt foci (ACF) in azoxymethane-induced colon cancer in Fisher 344 male rats. Food Chem Toxicol. Jan 2007;45(1):153-159.
2. Ogborn MR, Nitschmann E, Bankovic-Calic N, Weiler HA, Aukema H. Dietary flax oil reduces renal injury, oxidized LDL content, and tissue n-6/n-3 FA ratio in experimental polycystic kidney disease. Lipids. Nov 2002;37(11):1059-1065.
3. Griel AE, Kris-Etherton PM, Hilpert KF, Zhao G, West SG, Corwin RL. An increase in dietary n-3 fatty acids decreases a marker of bone resorption in humans. Nutr J. 2007;6:2.
4. Bloedon LT, Balikai S, Chittams J, et al. Flaxseed and cardiovascular risk factors: results from a double blind, randomized, controlled clinical trial. J Am Coll Nutr. Feb 2008;27(1):65-74.
5. Bloedon LT, Szapary PO. Flaxseed and cardiovascular risk. Nutr Rev. Jan 2004;62(1):18-27.
These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.