Research in Environment and Life Sciences 310
2016 RELS ISSN: 0974-4908
http://rels.comxa.com Res. Environ. Life Sci.
firstname.lastname@example.org 9(3) 310-316 (2016)
Flaxseed – composition and its health benefits
Rajju Priya Soni*, Mittu Katoch, Ashish Kumar and Pramod Verma
CSK Himachal Pradesh Krishi Vishwavidyalya, Palampur-176 061, India
(Received: July 23, 2015; Revised received: January 29, 2016; Accepted: January 31, 2016)
Abstract: Flaxseed is cultivated in many parts of world for fiber, oil as well as for medicinal purposes and also as nutritional product. It is a native of Egypt
but also cultivated in India, Holland, Russia and Britannia mainly for the purpose of its oil and fiber and is best adapted to fertile, fine textured, clay soils. Flax
was valued in Ancient and Early Modern times as both a food and medicine. In this review, nutrients, anti-nutrients, functional properties and health benefits
of bioactive molecules viz., essential fatty acids, lignans and dietary fiber of flaxseed are discussed. Flaxseed contains good amount of á-Linolenic Acid
(ALA), omega-3 fatty acid, protein, dietary fiber, lignan specifically Secoisolariciresinol diglucoside (SDG). ALA is beneficial for infant brain development,
reducing blood lipids and cardiovascular diseases. Researchers reported that flaxseed incorporated food products can have good consumer acceptability
along with its nutritional benefits.
Keywords: Flaxseed, Alpha-linolenic acid, Dietary fiber, Lignans, Health benefits
Flaxseed, or Linseed (Linum Usitatissimmum), popularly
known as Alsi, Jawas, Aksebija in Indian languages, (Anonymous,
2000). Flax (Linum usitassimum) belonging to family Lineaceae, is
a blue flowering annual herb that produces small flat seeds varying
from golden yellow to reddish brown color. Flaxseed possesses
crispy texture and nutty taste (Morris 2007; Rubilar et al., 2010).
The whole flaxseed is flat and oval with pointed tips, varies in color
from dark to yellow, and measures approximately 2.5 × 5.0× 1.5
mm (Freeman, 1995). Flaxseed contains a seed coat or true hull
(also called testa), a thin endosperm, two embryos, and an embryo
axis. Embryos form 55% of the total weight of hand-dissected
flaxseed, the seed coat and the endosperm account for 36% of the
total weight, and the embryo axis is 4% (Bhatty, 1995). Flaxseed
continues to surge forward in its recognition as a functional food,
being rich in the essential omega-3 fatty acid, alpha linolenic acid
and many phytochemicals. Flaxseed also provides dietary fiber
and protein (flax primer) an was singled out as one of six
neutraceuticals (Oomah 1995). Almost all parts of linseed plant are
utilized for various purposes. Seed contains oil which after refining
is used for edible purpose (Singh et al., 2011a, b). The stem yields
fiber of good quality possessing high strength and durability. Humans
have been consuming flaxseed since ancient times. It has been
cultivated for fiber as well as for medicinal purposes and as nutritional
product (Tolkachev and Zhuchenko, 2000).
Flaxseed, of Mesopotamic origin, has been cultivated since
5000 BC, being used until the 1990s principally for the fabrication of
cloths and papers. Today it is cultivated in over 2.6 million ha and
the important linseed growing countries are India, China, United
States, Ethiopia. Canada with 614,000 metric tonnes of flaxseed
produced in the year 2013-2014, is the world’s largest producer of
flax and accounts for nearly 80% of the global trade in flaxseed
(Oomah 2001; Bhatty, 1995). It is extensively cultivated throughout
India (Ganorkar and Jain, 2013; Bentley and Trimen, 1880) mainly
in Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Bihar, Rajasthan,
India and the United Provinces, also occasionally found in wild run
(Kapoor, 2005; Singh and Panda, 2005, Bentley and Trimen, 1880).
In India it is sown in the month of Sept-Oct and harvested in march-
April. The herb is dried and seeds are collected and used
(Anonymous, 1962). Flaxseed is unique among oilseeds because
of its exceptionally high content of á linolenic acid (ALA, 18:3n-3)
and lignans. Flaxseed contains 35 to 45% oil, of which 45 to 52%
is ALA (Bhatty, 1995). Its ALA content is outstanding among
established oilseeds in North America. ALA is classified as an omega-
3 fatty acid, a group that also includes long-chain metabolites of
ALA. Omega-3 fatty acids have anti-inflammatory, anti-thrombotic,
and anti-arrhythmic properties (Simopoulos, 1999).
The whole flaxseed is flat and oval with pointed tips and
contains a seed coat or true hull (also called testa), a thin endosperm,
two embryos and an embryo axis (Morris, 2007). Every part of the
linseed plant is utilized commercially, either directly or after
processing. The shell yields good quality fiber having high
mechanical properties and low density instead the seed provides
oil rich in omega-3, digestible proteins and lignans; it is also use to
manufacture paints, varnishes, linoleum, oilcloths, printing inks, soaps
and numerous other products. Flax seed sprouts are edible, with a
slightly spicy flavour. Whole flax seeds are chemically stable, but
ground flaxseed can go rancid at room temperature in as little as one
week, although there is contrary evidence. Refrigeration and storage
in sealed containers will keep ground flax from becoming rancid for a
longer period. Milled flax is remarkably stable to oxidation when
stored for nine months at room temperature if packed immediately
without exposure to air and light and for 20 months at ambient
temperatures under warehouse condition (Malcolmson et al., 2000).
Flaxseed has been the focus of growing interest for the
nutritionists and medical researchers due to its potential healthbenefits
associated with its biologically active components-ALA, lignan-
Secoisolariciresinol diglycoside (SDG) and dietary fiber(Toure and
Xueming, 2010). Flaxseed is establishing importance in the world’s
food chain as a functional food. Functional food can be defined as
Research in Environment and Life Sciences 311 March, 2016
Table-1: Nutritional composition of flaxseed
Nutrients Amount per 100 g of edible flaxseed
Moisture (g) 6.5 6.5
Protein (N×6.25) (g) 20.3
Fat (g) 37.1
Minerals (g) 2.4
Crude fiber (g) 4.8
Total dietary fiber (g) 24.5
Carbohydrates (g) 28.9
Energy (kcal) 530.0
Calcium (mg) 170.0
Phosphorous (mg) 370.0
Iron (mg) 2.7
Vitamin A (µg) 30.0
Vitamin E (mg) 0.6
Thiamine (B1) (mg) 0.23
Riboflavin (B2) (mg) 0.07
Niacin (mg) 1.0
Pyridoxine (mg) 0.61
Pantothenic acid 0.57
Biotin (µg) 0.6
Folic acid (µg) 112
*Morris 2007; Gopalan et al., 2004; Payne, 2000
the food or food ingredients that may provide physiological benefits
and helps in preventing and/or curing of diseases (Al-Okbi, 2005)
. Presently, flaxseed has new prospects as functional food because
of consumer’s growing interest for food with superb health benefits.
Owing to its excellent nutritional profile and potential health benefits,
it has become an attractive ingredient in the diets specially designed
for specific health benefits (Oomah, 2001). In spite of the multiple
clinical evidences of flaxseeds, people are still unaware about its
actual components, nutritional, therapeutic and other health benefits.
Flaxseed is rich in fat, protein and dietary fibre. The
composition of flaxseed can vary with genetics, growing environment
and method of seed processing (Daun et al., 2003) the composition
of flaxseed is provided in (Table-1). An analysis of brown Canadian
flaxseed averaged 41% fat, 20% protein, 28% total dietary fibre,
7.7% moisture and 3.4% ash (Anonymous, 2001). The protein
content of the seed decreases as the oil content increases (Daun et
al., 1994). It is well known that flax seeds are a source of high
content of polyunsaturated fatty acids (Pradhan et al., 2010).
Among the functional foods, flaxseed has emerged as a
potential functional food being good source of alpha-linolenic acid,
lignans, high quality protein, soluble fiber and phenolic compounds
(Oomah, 2001). The composition of flaxseed is presented in table-1
(Morris, 2007; Gopalan et al., 2004; Payne, 2000).
Flaxseed as functional food
Flaxseed is considered as functional food owing to the
presence of three main bioactive components-alpha-linolenic acid,
lignans and dietary fiber.
Alpha-linolenic acid is the main functional component of
flaxseed. It serves as an exclusive source of omega-3 fatty acid in
the vegetarian diets (Riediger et al., 2009). Fatty acids are termed
as essential because both they are required by the body but body
cannot synthesize them, therefore need to be supplied in the diet.
Human body lacks the enzymeswhich are required for the synthesis
of these essential fatty acids (de Lorgeril et al., 2001). There are
two groups of omega fats: omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. Linolenic
acid, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexanoic acid (DHA)
are three types of omega-3 fatty acids and are nutritionally important.
All three fatty acids have been shown to reduce the risk of
cardiovascular disease (Hurteau, 2004). These two polyunsaturated
fatty acids are essential for humans – that is, the body needs them.
Supercritical CO2 extraction gave a higher average ALA content
(60.5%) compared to the soxhlet extraction method (56.7%) (Bozan
and Temelli, 2002). ALA from flaxseed exerts positive effect on
blood lipids. It was found to be as effective as oleic acid (18:2η-6)
and linoleic acid (18:2η-6) in the reduction of plasma total cholesterol,
low density lipoprotein cholesterol and very low density lipoprotein
cholesterol in 20-34 years old healthy men (Chan et al., 1993).
Ranhotra et al. (1992) noted that flaxseed oil or blends of
flaxseed oil and sunflower oil promoted cholesterol reduction in
hypercholesterolemic rats compared to diets formulated with hard
fats. These authors suggested that a diet with the appropriate balance
of n-6 and n-3 fatty acids was preferred over diets high in n-6 fatty
acids. Ground flaxseed is high in omega-3 fatty acids which have
been shown to reduce hypertension, cholesterol and triglyceride
level (Oomah and Maza, 1998). Oikarinen et al. (2005) reported
that flaxseed oil may be responsible for preventing colon
carcinogenesis in multiple intestinal neoplasia (Min) mice. Dwivedi
et al. (2005) also supported this finding that flaxseed oil prevented
colon tumor development in rats. Presence of ALA in breast adipose
tissue was inversely related to breast cancer risk (Maillard et al.,
2002). ALA, being the essential fatty acid, requirement can be fulfilled
by intake of flaxseed products (Morris, 2004).
Flaxseed is the richest source of plant lignans (Thompson et
al., 1991). Lignans are phytoestrogens, which are abundantly
available in fiber rich plants, cereals (wheat, barley, and oats), legumes
(bean, lentil, soybean), vegetables (broccoli, garlic, asparagus,
carrots) fruits, berries, tea and alcoholic beverages. Flaxseed contains
about 75- 800 times more lignans than cereal grains, legumes, fruits
and vegetables (Mazur et al. 2000; Meagher and Beecher 2000;
Murphy and Hendrich 2002; Hosseinian and Beta 2009). Dietary
sources of lignans include seeds, legumes, cereals, vegetables, berries,
seaweed, tea and alcoholic beverages (Mazur et al., 1996, Thompson
et al., 1991, Namiki, 1995, Mazur, 1998, Mazur and Adlecreutz, 1998,
Mazur et al., 1998a, Mazur et al., 1998b, Nurmi T et al., 2003)
Secoisolariciresinol and matairesinol were the first plant lignans identified
in foods. Pinoresinol and lariciresinol are more recently identified plant
lignans that contribute substantially to the total dietary lignin intakes.
Lignans are the diphenolic compounds synthesised by the
coupling of two coniferyl alcohol residues existing in cell wall of higher
plants (Toure and Xueming, 2010; Westcott and Muir 2003).
Secoisolariciresinol diglycoside (SDG) is themajor lignan of flaxseed,
alongwith minor contents of matairesinol, pinoresinol, lariciresinol and
isolariciresinol (Meagher et al., 1999; Sicilia et al., 2003; Krajcova et
al., 2009). SDG ranges from 11.7 to 24.1 mg/g in defatted flour and
6.1 to 13.3 mg/g in whole flaxseed flour (Johnsson et al., 2000).
Health Benefits of flaxseedSoni et al.
Research in Environment and Life Sciences 312
Lignans have antioxidant activity and thus may contribute to the
anticancer activity of flaxseed (Yuan et al., 1999; Kangas et al.,
2002; Prassad 1997). However, number of factors may contribute to
the various anticancer activity of flaxseed (Thompson et al., 2005).
The behavior of the lignans depends upon the biological level of
estradiol. At normal estradiol levels, the lignans act as estrogen
antagonists but in post menopausal women (i.e. low estradiol levels)
can act as weak estrogen (Hutchins and Slavin, 2003; Rickard and
Thompson, 1997). Although lignans have been shown to be
protective against breast cancer, minor structural alterations may
influence overall activity (Sarrinen et al., 2005). The mammalian
lignans stimulate the synthesis of sex hormone binding globulin, which
binds sex hormones and reduce their circulation in blood stream, and
decrease their biological activity and thus reducing the risk of
developing cancer (Thompson et al., 1996).
Dietary Fiber (Mucilage or Gum)
Dietary fiber is a communal word used to describe a variety
of plant substances that are not easily digested by the enzymes
responsible for digestion in humans (Eastwood and Passmore, 1983).
Flaxseed meal is reach in crude, acid detergent, neutral detergent
and total fibers (cellulose, lignine and hemicellulose). Fibers content
varies between 22% to 26%, twice the percentage of high fiber
beans. A half ounce of dry whole flax seed provides between 20%
and 25% of your daily fiber needs. Flaxseed contains soluble and
insoluble dietary fibers in a proportion that varies between 20:80 and
40:60. The major insoluble fiber fraction consists of cellulose and
lignin and the soluble fiber fractions are the mucilage gums (Qian,
2012, Cui et al., 1996). Total fibre is the sum of dietary fibre and
functional fibre. Functional fibre consists of non digestible carbohydrates
that have been extracted from plants, purified and added to foods and
other products. Dietary fibre and functional fibre are not digested and
absorbed by the human small intestine and, therefore, pass relatively
intact into the large intestine (Institute of Medicine, 2002).Dietary fibers
from flaxseed were found to have a direct relation to health in particular
in body weight regulation through both hunger suppression and
diminished nutrient absorption (Kristensen et al., 2012) generally,
soluble fiber forms a gel when mixed with water. This gel slows down
the emptying of the stomach, potentially lowering blood glucose levels.
Cholesterol is also lowered as it is surrounded by the gel, which
inhibits its absorption and leads to more cholesterol being excreted.
Ibbrugger et al., 2012, conducted a crossover acute study about the
influence of flax drink and flax tablet on hunger suppression. Sensation
of satiety and fullness were similar for Flax tablets and Flax drink as
they did not differ by more than 1-4% (Ibrugger et al., 2012).
Flaxseed mucilage associated with hull of flaxseed is a gum
like material composed of acidic and neutral polysaccharides. The
neutral fraction of flaxseed contains xylose (62.8%) whereas the
acidic fraction of flaxseed is comprised mainly of rhamnose (54.5%)
followed by galactose (Cui W et al., 1994, 1891-1895).
Flaxseed was shown to reduce the post prandial blood
glucose response in humans. Healthy female volunteers consumed
50 g grounds, raw flaxseed/day for 4 weeks which provided 12-
13% of energy intake (24-25 g/100 g total fat). Similar findings were
observed in post menopausal women fed 40 g/day flaxseed fortification
diet (Lemay et al., 2002). Bread containing 25% flaxseed gave a
glycemic response that was 28% lower than the control (no flaxseed)
bread 80(Jenkins et al., 1999).Flaxseed fiber plays an important role
in lowering the blood glucose levels. Studies demonstrated that insoluble
fiber slows down the release of sugar in the blood and thus help in
reducing blood glucose levels to great extent (Thakur et al., 2009).
Studies have shown that the high intake of dietary fibers is beneficial for
the prevention of obesity in both men and women (Du, 2010).
The protein content in flaxseed has been reported to between
10.5% and 31% (Oomah and Mazza, 1993). Khategaon cultivars
grown in India had a protein content of 21.9% (Madhusudhan and
Singh, 1983). Like all vegetables, flaxseed proteins have techno-
functional properties that affect their behaviour in a food system through
interaction with other ingredients. These properties are mainly
dependent on their hydration mechanisms for solubility and waterD
oil retention capacity. The amino acid pattern of flax protein is similar to
that of soybean protein, which is viewed as one of the most nutritious
of the plant proteins (Rabetafika et al., 2011). Differences in protein
can be attributed to both genetics and environment. The proximate
protein content of dehulled and defatted flaxseed varied considerably
depending upon cultivar growth location and seed processing. Hull
fraction contains lower protein levels and that dehulling increases
protein level of flaxseed protein level from 19.2% to 21.8%.(Oomah
and Mazza , 1997) Flaxseed proteins have similar nitrogen
extractability at varying pH and ionic strength with other oilseed sources
of proteins(Oomah and Mazza 1993). Flaxseed proteins were
reported to be 20% albumins of low molecular weight proteins (1.6S
and 2S) and 80% globulins as high molecular weight proteins (11S
and 12S) and were found to be structurally more lipophilic than
soybean proteins due to the influence of their polysaccharide
composition. Albumin and globulin type proteins are the major proteins
in flaxseed (Oomah and Mazza, 1993). Nutritional value and amino
acid profile of flaxseeds are comparable to that of soya proteins
(Oomah and Mazza, 1993, Madhusudan, 1985). Albumin and globulin
type proteins are the major proteins in flaxseed. Flaxseed albumin
comprised 20% of meal protein (Madhusudhan and Singh, 1983).
Globulin fraction makes up to 73.4% and the albumin constitutes
about 26.6% of total protein (Marcone et al., 1998). Flaxseed proteins
are relatively high in arginine, aspartic acid and glutamic acid whereas
lysine, methionine and cystine are limiting amino acid. Total amino acid
content of the flaxseed after 8 days germination increased by 15 times
with greatest increase (i.e. 200 times) being observed in glutamine and
leucine compared to the original seed (Wanasundara et al., 1999).
Flaxseed protein was effective in lowering plasma
cholesterol and triglycerides (TAG) compared to soy protein and
casein protein (Bhathena et al., 2002). Protein content of biscuits
made from composite flour containing 15% ground flaxseed increased
from 6.5% to 8.52%. The supplementation of flaxseed flour upto
15% showed no deleterious effect on the sensory attributes of biscuits
(Zaib-un-Nisa, 2000). As flax is gluten-free, people who are sensitive
to gluten can enjoy flax in their diets (Morris, 2003). Varying the
source of dietary protein intake authors concluded that flaxseed meal
was more effective than soy protein in reducing proteinuria and renal
histologic abnormalities in this model [Velasquez et al, 2003]. Bioactive
peptides, present in flaxseed, such as cyclolinopeptide A, have strong
Health Benefits of flaxseedSoni et al.
Research in Environment and Life Sciences 313 March, 2016
immunosuppressive and antimalarial activities, inhibiting the human
malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum in culture (Tolkachev and
Zhuchenko, 2004). According to Oomah (2001) flaxseed contained
a peptide mixture with high levels of branched-chain amino acids
(BCAAs) and low levels of Aromatic Amino Acids (AAAs). This mixture
has shown antioxidant properties by scavenging 2, 2-diphenyl-1-
picrylhydrazyl radical (DPPH) and antihypertensive properties by
inhibiting the angiotensin I–converting enzyme (Picur et al., 2006).
Health Benefits of Flaxseed
Anti-oxidant functions: The antioxidant activity of the flaxseed
has been shown to reduce total cholesterol (Bierenbaum et. al.,
1993) as well as platelet aggregation (Allman et al.,1995). The flaxseed
lignin Secoisolariciresinol Diglucoside (SDG) and mammalian lignans
enterodiol (ED) and enterolactone (EL) were previously shown to
be effective antioxidants against DNA damage and lipid peroxidation.
Inhibition of activated cell chemiluminescence by supraphysiological
concentrations of secoisolariciresinol (SECO), ED and EL were also
evaluated. The lignan antioxidant activity was attributed to the 3-methoxy-
4-hydroxyl substituents of SDG and SECO. Secoisolariciresinol
diglucoside from flaxseed has been shown to be effective in
preventing/delaying the development of type-1 and type-2 diabetes.
The hypoglycemic effect of SDG in type-2 diabetes has been suggested
to be due to its antioxidant activity. It may be possible that the hypoglycemic
effect of SDG in type-2 diabetes is due to suppression of expression of
Phospho enol pyruvate carboxy kinase enzyme, a rate limiting enzyme
in glyconeogenetic pathway [Hu et al., 2007].
Infant allergies and respiratory diseases: In a paper “Role of
dietary long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids in infant allergies and
respiratory diseases” Lynette P. Shek et al. (2012) during had
examine the role PUFAs consumption during pregnancy and early
childhood and its influence on allergy and respiratory diseases as
the long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids have been reported to
have immune modulatoray effects. Decreased consumption of omega-
6-PUFAs, in favor of more anti-inflammatory omega-3-PUFAs (flax is
rich in ALA which is a biological precursor to omega-3-fatty acid) in
modern diets, has demonstrated the potential protective role of allergic
and respiratory diseases. PUFAs act via several mechanisms to
modulate immune function. Omega-3-PUFAs may alter the T helper
cell balance by inhibiting cytokine production which in turn inhibits
immunoglobulin E synthesis and T helper 2 cell differentiations. PUFAs
may further modify cellular membrane, induce eicosanoids metabolism,
and alter gene expression.
Anti-diabetic functions: A study conducted by 49Mitra A,
Bhattacharya in 2009 in order to find out whether flaxseed gum, like
guargum, is effective in reducing the blood glucose level in non
insulin dependent diabetes mellitus (NIDDM). In this study 20 NIDDM
patients were fed, for 3 months, 5 chapattis each containing 5 g
flaxseed gum and 25 g wheat flour. Blood biochemistry of these
patients when on normal monitored diet for the preceding 3 months,
before initiation of therapy with flax gum, was measured monthly
using standard procedures and monthly therefore, after the initiation
of therapy. 20 other (non-diabetic) patients subjected to identical
conditions acted as controls. It was observed that flax gum-containing
therapeutic diet reduced TLC, LDLC, and FBS significantly. In fact
the statistical analysis of the data confirmed that flax gum caused
significant reduction of TLC (p = 0.025), LDLC (p = 0.030) and FBS
(p = 0.045). The changes in other parameters were not statistically
significant. The conclusion from this study is that flaxseed gum is an
inexpensive, abundant, natural material with no side effects. It is
helped in curing various diseases by lowering the recognized risk
factors like TLC, LDLC, and FBS. In diabetes, this is a useful
nutraceutical for its effects in controlling blood sugar and Dyslipidaemia.
Daily lignan supplementation resulted in modest, yet
statistically significant improvements in glycemic control in type 2
diabetic patients without apparently affecting fasting glucose, lipid
profiles and insulin sensitivity (Pan et al., 2007). Peak blood glucose
values were improved by ingestion of flaxseed fibre in healthy
subjects (Dahl et al., 2005). Administration of lignan capsules (360mg/
d) for 12 weeks to diabetic subjects with mild hypercholesterolemia
resulted in significant reduction in C-reactive protein levels (Pan et
al., 2009). Flaxseed lignans are converted by intestinal bacteria
into the so called enterolignans, enterodiol and enterolactove.
Information on bioavailabity of enterolignans is scanty and the mean
relative bioavailability of enterolignans from whole compared with
ground flaxseed was 28% (p<or =0.01), where as that of crushed
compared with ground flaxseed was 43% (p<or =0.01). Crushing
and milling of flaxseed substantially improve the bioavailabity of the
enterolignans (Kuijsten et al., 2005). There was a significant increase
in serum alpha linolenic acid, eicosapentaenoic acid and
docosapentaenoic acid and serum enterolactove concentration was
doubled during flaxseed supplementation (Tarpila et al., 2002).
Lignans have been shown to have positive effects in lowering
relative risk factors for heart disease.
Cancer: A review by Azhar Jabeen et al., 2014 revealed that a
pilot study was done at dietary fat restriction and flaxseed
supplementation in 25 prostate cancer patients. The patients were
asked to take 30 g/day of ground flaxseed and to have a low fat diet
of 20 % of total kilocalories or less. The studylasted an average of
34 days and there was a significant decrease in total testosterone
(422 ± 122 ng/dL to 360 ± 128 ng/dL), total cholesterol (201 ± 39
mg/dL to 174 ± 42 mg/dL) and free androgen index (36.3 % ±
18.9 % to 29.3 % ± 16.8 %) (p< 0.05), a decrease in the mean
proliferation rate (7.4 ± 7.8 historic controls vs. 5.0 ± 4.9 for treated
patients, p = 0.05), the distribution of the apoptotic indexes differed
significantly (p = 0.01) and the proliferation rat and apoptosis were
significantly associated with the number of days on the diet (p =
0.049 and p = 0.017) . Flaxseed has been shown to reduce the
early risk markers for and incidence of mammary and colonic
carcinogenesis in animal models (Serraino and Thompson, 1992,
Jenab and Thompson, 1996, Serraino and Thompson, 1991,
Thompson et al., 1996). Epidemiologic studies have also shown
that the prevalence of breast cancer is lower in countries where the
diet is vegetarian (Block et al.,1992, Parkin et al., 1992) and that
lignin concentrations were found significantly lower in omnivores
and in women with breast cancer (Adlercreutz et al.,1982, Adlercreutz
et al.,1993). Thus, it is becoming increasingly obvious that lignans
possess many beneficial properties. Both phytoestrogen and dietary
fibre have been shown to have cancer protective effects. Flaxseeds
significantly increased urinary excretion of lignans without changing
the serum hormone concentration of premenopausal women
Health Benefits of flaxseedSoni et al.
Research in Environment and Life Sciences 314
suggesting that the chemoprotective effects reported for flaxseed may
have resulted from mechanism other than a hormonal effect (Frische
et al., 2003).The systematic review by Flower et al., 2013 considered
lignans and other flaxseed compounds (ALA and fiber content) to check
the efficacy in improving menopausal symptoms in women living with
breast cancer and for potential impact on risk of breast cancer incidence
or recurrence. Making a comparison among all studies examined,
authors concluded that flax may be associated with decreased risk of
breast cancer. Furthermore, flax demonstrated anti-proliferative effects
in breast tissue of women at risk of breast cancer. Mortality risk may also
be reduced among those living with breast cancer.
Flaxseed in bone health: Alpha linolenic acid, the omega-3 fat
found in flaxseed promotes bone health by helping to prevent
excessive bone turnover-when consumption of foods rich in these
omega-3 fat results in a lower ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fats in
the diet (Griel et al., 2007). When the women who had been having
14 hot flashes per week for at least a month and weren’t taking
estrogen to relieve their menopausal symptoms were fed 2
tablespoons of crushed flaxseed twice daily for six weeks, the women
halved their number of daily hot flashes while taking flaxseed. In
addition, the intensity of the women’s hot flashes dropped by 57%.
Side effects included abdominal bloating (14 women) and mild
diarrhea (8 women) (Pruthi et al., 2007).
Anti-nutrients in flaxseed: Flaxseeds contain anti-nutrients that
may have adverse influence on the health and well-being of human
population. Keeping an eye on safety of flaxseed, two compounds,
cyanogenic glycosides and linatine an antipyridoxine factor are
questioned frequently. Release of hydrogen cyanide from flaxseed
would be minimal and below toxic lethal dose. At the recommend
daily intake of about 1–2 table spoons, approximately 5–10 mg of
hydrogen cyanide is released from flaxseed, which is well below
the estimated acute toxic dose for an adult of 50–60 mg inorganic
cyanide and below the 30–100 mg/ day humans can detoxify
(Roseling, 1994). Generally roasting is carried out to eliminate
cyanogenic glycosides. Wanasundara et al. (1993) studied on
removal of cyanogenic glycosides of flaxseed meal by a two phase
solvent extraction system consisting of hexanes and an alkanol
(Methanol, ethanol or isopropanol) phase with or without added
water and/or ammonia. Of the 4.42 mg/g linustatin and 1.90 mg/g
neolinustatin originally present in the meals, over 90% of each
cyanogenic glycoside was removed under optimum conditions using
methanolic solutions. Although linatine is a problem in chicks, flaxseed
has not been associated with a vitamin B6 deficiency in human. In
fact, no affect on serum pyridoxine levels in subjects consuming 45
g/ day of flaxseed over 5 weeks was observed (Dieken, 1992).
In addition to this, trypsin inhibitor and phytic acid are other
antinutrients contained in flaxseed. But compared to soyabean and
canola seeds, activity of them are low (Hall et al., 2006). Bhatty
(1993) reported laboratory-prepared flaxseed meals containing
42–51 units of TIA (Trypsin inhibitor activity), which was slightly
higher than 10–30 units observed by Madhusudhan and Singh
(1983) and commercially obtained flaxseed meal (14–37 units).
The contents of phytic acid were significantly different among
cultivars. AC Linora has a lowest phytic acid content of 2280 mg/
100 g and low ALA yellow-seeded cultivar Linola 947 has the
highest content (3250 mg/100 g seed) among the eight cultivars
reported (Oomah et al., 1997). Ganorkar and Jain (2013) have
also reviewed that flaxseed antinutrients have lesser impact on
human health as compared to that of soyabean and canola. Trypsin
inhibitors are also reported in flaxseed, though activity is insignificant
as compared to soybean and canola seeds (Schilcher et al., 1986.)
Functional foods and nutraceuticals may provide a means to
reduce the increasing burden on the health care system by a
continuous preventive mechanism. Plant foods as medicines are
assuming greater importance in the primary health care of individuals
and communities in many developed as well as developing countries.
A large number of phytochemicals and bioactives are present in
foods of plant origin. Studies during the last three decades uncovered
nutritional benefits of flaxseed related to its unique composition.
Processing innovations in more-recent years have enhanced
flaxseeds use as an ingredient, making it available in many forms with
specific nutritional benefits for todays health conscious consumers.
Flaxseed derived lignans have been part of both diet and herbal
medicines for centuries. The present review shows that, the
nutraceutical value and different health benefits of flaxseed with
reference to evidence based literatures. Flaxseed is one of the
emerging foods which have the potential of curing these disorders.
Flaxseed is emerging as one of the nutritive and functional ingredient
in food products Various clinical trials revealed that the flaxseed
constituents provide disease preventive and therapeutic benefits.
Flaxseed is used as a herbal medicine which has high amount of
lignans, phytoestrogen, soluble fiber and alpha-linolenic acid. Many
studies have shown that these composites have hypolipidemic and
antioxidant properties. It is a considerable potential source of high
quality protein, soluble fiber, and phenolic compounds. Studies proved
that flaxseed has tremendous potential in disease prevention
particularly cardiovascular disease (CVD), osteoporosis, rheumatoid
arthritis, cancer (breast and colon, cancer), and also affects immunity
favorably. However, many people are still unaware of the potential
health benefits of flaxseed and food applications. ALA (omega-3 fatty
acid), dietary fiber and Lignan (specifically SDG) content attracts food
technologists to explore its abilities at fullest extent in commercial food
processing sector. Flaxseed is emerging as one of the nutritive and
functional ingredient in food products. For this reason, further detailed
clinical research appears worthwhile to explore the full therapeutic
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