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Flaxseeds contain unique heart friendly properties, which the scientific research is only now beginning to reveal in greater clarity. Should we wait around for randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blinded trials and the FDA's explicit drug approval, or take out our coffee grinders and start incorporating the meal into our diet right now? Thankfully, its a choice you still get to make for yourself.
The biomedical literature freely available to view on the National Library of Medicine's bibliographic citation database MEDLINE reveals a growing number of foods, nutrients and plant compounds with cardiovascular disease reversing properties, with 129 of these characterized on our research project alone [see Clogged Arteries].
Of course, the vast majority of these studies are preclinical, non-human in nature, as only so much precious capital flows into research on natural substances, which by their very nature do not grant patents (and therefore offer little to no return on investment), nor easily reveal their secrets through the optic of pharmacology. This does not mean, however, that we must wait around for future randomized, double-blinded, placebo-controlled, multicenter trials to take some of this data to heart, letting it guide us into making simple dietary and lifestyle changes that could in fact prevent or regress disease at the same moment that it is most certainly nourishing us.
All the more reason why we should be encouraged by new research into the fabulous flaxseed's ability to reverse cardiovascular disease progression in a new animal study, especially considering that 30 billion dollars is pumped every year into the statin class of cholesterol-lowering drugs, which have been linked to over 300 adverse health effects.
If the science is now showing that a simple food could outperform a highly toxic patented chemical class of drugs, perhaps we are getting closer to the realization of Thomas A. Edison's famous prediction:
"The doctor of the future will give no medication, but will interest his patients in the care of the human frame, diet and in the cause and prevention of disease. "
Flaxseed's Potential Cardiovascular Disease Reversing Properties
A promising new study published in the American Journal of Physiology and Circulation Research titled, "The Effects of Dietary Flaxseed on Atherosclerotic Plaque Regression," looked at whether flaxseed in the diet of rabbits is capable of regressing atherosclerotic plaque, the primary pathological process associated with gradual constriction or sudden blockage in the arteries leading to cardiovascular morbidity and mortality. [i]
According to the study, "Dietary flaxseed can retard the progression of atherosclerotic plaques. However, it remains unclear whether these anti-atherogenic effects extend to plaque regression."
Rabbits were divided into either a regular diet (Group I) or a 1% cholesterol-supplemented diet (Group II), with the latter group showing signs of steady plaque growth, as well as lowered response to stress hormone (norepinephrine) induced vessel contraction and impaired relaxation response to acetylcholine, which are indications of endothelial dysfunction and atherosclerotic plaque progression.
Another group (Group IV) was given a 10% dietary flaxseed-supplemented diet, which resulted in "a significant ≈40% reduction in plaque formation (P = 0.033)," leading the researchers to conclude: "Dietary flaxseed is a valuable strategy to accelerate the regression of atherosclerotic plaques."
This is not the first report of flaxseed's seemingly miraculous ability to regress the pathological process that leads to the #1 cause of death in the developed world.
Back in 2004, the journal Atherosclerosis published a study in hamsters revealed that flaxseed might provide an ideal solution for aging women, who following the failure of their ovarian reserve in the mid-40's to late 50's, begin to develop adverse changes in their blood lipids and increased atherosclerotic lesions.
What the researchers found by using an animal model was that dietary flaxseed consumption was as effective estrogen (estradiol) for preventing some of the adverse blood lipid changes associated with the 'change of life,' and the furthermore, flaxseed was capable of preventing fatty streak area and the incidence of lesions that were also induced by hormone deficiency. [ii]
This finding is consistent with previously reported research that indicates that flaxseed has significant estrogen-like activity, however, without the well-known cancer risks associated with the use of estradiol (E2). [See: Confirmed: Flaxseed Contains 'Estrogens' That Regress Cancer.]
How Does Flaxseed's Cardiovascular Benefits Work?
Like any complex food, flaxseed has multiple modes of action. The three primary beneficial compounds are:
- Omega-3: Known as alpha-linoleic acid, this dietary fatty acid, which is relatively rare in the Western diet, is essential to human metabolism (meaning, we can't produce it ourselves), and has been the subject of thousands of studies, many of which indicate its value in reducing risk factors for heart disease.
- Soluble Fiber: Flaxseed is a rich source of soluble fiber, one of the benefits of which is to that it binds to bile acids (which include oxidized cholesterol and other fat-soluble waste products like toxic hormone metabolites, and other bile constituents) and help to pull them out of the body.
- Lignan: Lignans are a class of plant compounds with both estrogen-like and antioxidant properties. The major lignan found in flaxseed is known as secoisolariciresinol diglucoside, is metabolized into enterodial and enterolactone within the human body, which can affect a wide range of bodily tissues, including the reproductive and the cardiovascular systems.