Why You Should Consume Flaxseed Oil

Experimental and clinical research findings on the cardiovascular benefits of consuming flaxseed

A Primer

  • Omega 3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) greatly improve CV health, See Krill Oil
  • Protective against hypertension, platelet aggregation, dyslipidemia, atherosclerosis, arrhythmias
  • Flaxseed is a source of omega 3 PUFAs; richest plant source (ALA)
  • It is also a good source of dietary fiber and phytoestrogens called lignans (highest source of lignin is in seed coat of flaxseed)
  • 4 forms of flaxseed are whole seed, ground seed, partially defatted flaxseed meal and flaxseed oil
  • Flaxseed oil does not contain dietary fiber or lignans
  • Partially defatted flaxseed meal is high in fiber and lignans, low in ALA content

Animal Clinical Trial Data:

  • Can prevent development of atherosclerosis via dietary flaxseed
  • Whole ground flaxseed (0.4g/day), partially defatted flaxseed meal (7.5g/day), or lignan SDG (40 mg/day) decrease total cholesterol levels after 4-24 weeks of treatment
  • Flaxseed oil does not affect plasma lipids after 8 weeks of treatment
  • Benefits occur because of antioxidative effects of lignans and anti-inflammatory effects of omega 3 fatty acid, and inhibition of cell proliferation via dietary flaxseed
  • Loss of endothelial dependent vascular relaxation induced by cholesterol feeding or hypertensive conditions can be combated by consuming a diet where 10-20% of calories come from flaxseed, after 10-24 weeks of treatment.
  • Flaxseed does not influence endothelial independent routes that modulate vascular responses
  • Incidence of ventricular fibrillation (during ischemia and during reperfusion) is reduced by consuming a diet where 10% of calories come from flaxseed, after 16 weeks of treatment

Human Based Trial Data:

  • Flaxseed mildly decreases total cholesterol and LDL levels in normolipidemic and hypercholesterolemic individuals, and does not influence HDL and triglyceride levels, after 4-24 weeks of treatment
  • Ground flaxseed (38-40g/day) decreases levels of other atherogenic lipoproteins, such as Lp(a) and apolipoproteins A-1 and B, after 12 weeks of treatment
  • Mixed results
  • 2 studies showed that flaxseed oil, specifically, can be harmful; raises total cholesterol and reduces HDL cholesterol, after 4-26 weeks of treatment
  • Hypolipidemic effect of flaxseed via lignan and fiber
  • ALA in flaxseed oil may not contribute to hypolipidemic effect
  • Inflammation causes atherosclerosis
  • Flaxseed oil (13.7g/day or 2g ALA from flaxseed oil) or SDG lignin (500 mg/day) has anti-inflammatory effects after 4-12 weeks of treatment in healthy adults
  • Ingesting 30g of flaxseed flours/day also has anti-inflammatory effects after 4-12 weeks in obese adults
  • Data on anti-platelet effects is mixed
  • Ingesting 40 g of ground flaxseed per day decreased systolic and diastolic blood pressure in healthy postmenopausal women (12 month study)
  • Other studies demonstrated that ingesting 15-20g of flaxseed oil per day decreased systolic, diastolic, and mean arterial pressure, after 4-12 weeks of treatment
  • Conversely, markers of oxidative stress were raised after consuming 50g of flaxseed per day or 20g of flaxseed oil per day in hyperlipidemic adults, after 3-4 weeks of treatment
  • LDL oxidation (with markers of insulin resistance) was also raised in obese adults, after 3-4 weeks of treatment

Conclusions:

  • Therefore, moderate consumption of ground flaxseed (1-4 tbsp) per day can decrease total cholesterol by 6-11% and can decrease LDL cholesterol by 9-18%
  • Protective against atherosclerosis
  • Protective against ischemic heart disease (improves vascular relaxation, inhibits incidence of ventricular fibrillation

References

Bassett CM, Rodriguez-Leyva D, Pierce GN. Experimental and clinical research findings on the cardiovascular benefits of consuming flaxseed. Appl Physiol Nutr Metab. 2009 Oct;34(5):965-74. doi: 10.1139/H09-087. PubMed PMID: 19935863.