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A promising new study published in the journal Hypertension titled, "Potent antihypertensive action of dietary flaxseed in hypertensive patients," reveals that dietary flaxseed may represent a powerful therapeutic intervention in patients with cardiovascular disease.
Canadian researchers at St. Boniface Hospital Research Centre, Winnipeg, conducted a human clinical trial in order to test whether flaxseed would produce measurable improvements in patients with peripheral artery disease (P.A.D), a condition in which atherosclerotic plaque builds up in the arteries that carry blood to the head, organs, and limbs.
The prospective, double-blinded, placebo-controlled, randomized trial, included 110 patients who ingested a variety of foods that contained 30 grams (approximately 4 tablespoons) of milled flaxseed or placebo each day over 6 months. The purpose of their study was to "examine the effects of daily ingestion of flaxseed on systolic (SBP) and diastolic blood pressure (DBP) in peripheral artery disease patients," as hypertension is commonly associated with P.A.D.
After six months, the results of the dietary intervention were impressive:
- Blood plasma levels of the omega-3 fatty acid α-linolenic acid and enterolignans increased 2- to 50-fold in the flaxseed-fed group versus the placebo group.
- Systolic blood pressure (SBP) was ≈ 10 mm Hg lower in the flaxseed group
- Diastolic blood pressure (DBP) was ≈ 7 mm Hg lower in the flaxseed group
According to the study, "Patients who entered the trial with a SBP ≥ 140 mm Hg at baseline obtained a significant reduction of 15 mm Hg in SBP and 7 mm Hg in DBP from flaxseed ingestion."
The researchers also found that circulating α-linolenic acid levels correlated with SBP and DBP, and lignan levels correlated with changes in DBP.
The final summary concluded: "[F]laxseed induced one of the most potent antihypertensive effects achieved by a dietary intervention."
Flaxseed's health benefits are as complex as the components of the remarkable seed itself. Each component, including its fiber, lignans and omega-3 fatty acids, possess unique health benefits. In fact, over the past decade, hundreds of studies have been performed on whole flaxseed and/or its parts, revealing their value in over 100 health conditions. Top on the list of clinically confirmed health benefits are its anti-breast cancer properties, but it also contains the following properties of value in cardiovascular conditions:
- Cholesterol Modulation: Flaxseed may reduce circulating total and LDL-cholesterol levels,[i] [ii] and prevent LDL cholesterol from oxidizing, which is what renders it atherogenic (heart-disease promoting).[iii]
- Increased Blood Flow: Flaxseed consumption improves flow-mediated dilation of the arteries (brachial) and reduces blood pressure.[iv]
- C-reactive Protein Reduction: Elevated C-reactive protein is often a marker for heart disease related inflammation and associated increased risk of cardiovascular events. A flaxseed-derived lignan supplement appears to reduce C-reactive protein in type 2 diabetics – a population a far greater risk for cardiovascular disease and associated events.[v]
- Plaque Reduction: Dietary flaxseed accelerates the regression of atherosclerotic plaques in the rabbit model.[vi] It is believed that secoisolariciresinol diglucoside (SDG), a phytoestrogen present in flax, is responsible for this anti-atherosclerotic effect.[vii]