Flax In The News
The Healing Power of Flax - with Grant Roberts
Flaxseed - A RICH SOURCE OF LIGNANS
Lignans have numerous biological properties, including antimitotic, antifungal and antioxidant activities. Lignans from pine cones and the creosote bush have been shown to inhibit replication of the human immunodeficiency virus in vitro. A newlyidentified lignan, cinnamophilin, inhibits thromboxane synthase, which decreases thromboxane A2 production and thereby reduces platelet aggregation and vasoconstriction. Flaxseed and other lignans are currently being investigated for their anticancer properties.
What Are the Major Food Sources of Lignans?
Lignans are widely distributed in the plant kingdom, being found in most unrefined grains such as barley, buckwheat, millet, and oats; legumes such as soybeans; and some vegetables such as broccoli, carrots, cauliflower and spinach. The richest source of lignans is flaxseed. Flaxseed contains high levels of the plant lignan precursor, secoisolariciresinol diglycoside(SDG), and provides 75-800 times more plant lignans than most other foods found in vegetarian diets. Most flaxseed lignans are removed during processing and thus are not found in appreciable quantities in flaxseed oil.
The Benefits of Flaxseed
Flaxseed may be on everyone's lips -- and in everyone's cereal -- but this new darling of the plant world has been around for more than 4,000 years, known even in the days of Hippocrates for its healthful benefits.
Flaxseed has been a part of human and animal diets for thousands of years in Asia, Europe, and Africa, and more recently in North America and Australia, says Kaye Effertz, executive director of AmeriFlax, a trade promotion group representing U.S. flaxseed producers. As flax gained popularity for its industrial uses, however, its popularity as a food product waned, but it never lost its nutritional value. "Today flax is experiencing a renaissance among nutritionists, the health conscious public, food processors, and chefs alike," says Effertz.
The reason for the increasing interest in flaxseed is its apparent benefits for a host of medical conditions, says Roberta Lee, MD, medical director of the Center for Health and Healing at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in New York.
Flaxseed is very high in omega-3 essential fatty acids, Lee explains. It's the omega 3s -- "good" fats -- that researchers are looking at in terms of their possible effects on lowering cholesterol, stabilizing blood sugar, lowering the risk of breast, prostate, and colon cancers, and reducing the inflammation of arthritis, as well as the inflammation that accompanies certain illnesses such as Parkinson's disease and asthma.