(NaturalHealth365) Did you know that consuming a tablespoon of flax seeds, everyday, can lower your risk for breast cancer? The healing properties of flax seeds have been appreciated since Roman times, and has been one of the most popular medicinal foods – used by Hippocrates to Gandhi.
The scientific evidence is overwhelming
Scores of demographic-based studies have indicated that populations with a high intake of plant-based foods have a lower risk of diseases, particularly breast cancer. When researchers delved deeper they found that among the many phytonutrients, lignans played a significant role in decreasing the risk for breast cancer. It was observed that plant-eaters have twice the amount of lignans in their body than those who consumed animal food.
Lignans are produced by intestinal bacteria after digesting fiber- rich plant foods.
Most plant foods contain lignans – legumes, grains, vegetables and fruits but flax seeds are by far the richest source of lignan (precursors). Flax seeds, also known as linseed, contain lignan precursors at levels 100 to 800 times higher than identified in 66 other plant foods.
One tablespoon of flax seed provides you about 24-27 mg of lignan precursors, which our gut bacteria converts to lignan.
How do flax seeds lower the risk of breast cancer?
Many preclinical and correlative studies have suggested that higher lignan intake or blood levels are associated with a reduced risk of breast cancer. A 2010 pilot study investigated the effect of lignan-rich flax and the changes in the biomarkers for breast cancer (ki-67) in premenopausal women – who were at a high risk of breast cancer. These women consumed 50 mg of SDG per day (a type of lignan in flax) and showed a significant reduction in the Ki-67 biomarker and showed reduced risk.
Earlier, a 2005 randomized double-blind placebo-controlled clinical trial, had also confirmed similar results. Breast cancer risk patients that consumed 25g of flax seed, in muffins, showed a lowered risk as compared to the group that did not consume flax seed muffins. The study concluded that dietary flax seed intake has the potential to reduce tumor growth in patients already suffering from breast cancer.
Flax seeds help the body eliminate toxins
Flax is rich in fiber, lignan precursors, and omega-3 fats. The fiber in flax seeds help form a gel-like substance which supports healthy bowel movements, feed the gut bacteria and also aids the liver in excreting excess cholesterol.
Lignan precursors get digested by the gut bacteria to form the compounds enterodiol and enterolactone which mimic some of the effects of estrogens, thereby reduce cancer risk. Being a rich source of omega-3, that are anti-inflammatory, flax seeds can help inhibit cancer cell growth and progression.
Making flax seeds more digestible
Flax seeds come in brown and golden varieties, but the nutritional quality of both are the same. Make sure to grind your flax seeds prior to consumption if not, the seeds just pass through and get eliminated without being digested. Ground flax seed store well for up to a month without getting rancid.
Keep in mind, although flax seed oil may seem like a convenient option, the best way to enjoy the benefits of flax seeds is the seed itself.
An easy way to consume flax is to add some ground flax to your breakfast smoothies. Flax seed combine well with fruits and milk to pack the best of nutrition into your breakfast.
Flax seeds are a fantastic replacement for egg – in any baking recipe. Just add a tablespoon of ground flax and 3 teaspoonful of water and mix well to replace the egg in a recipe. It will give you the same gooey consistency in a baking recipe that eggs provide.
Are there any safety concerns?
Flax seeds are not known to cause adverse effects to humans, however being rich in lignan precursors and fiber, it may cause diarrhea when consumed in doses of 45 – 50 g in a day.
MK Gandhi observed that ”wherever flaxseed becomes a regular food item among the people, there will be better health.” Flax seeds are nutrient-dense and provide many benefits yet cost less than most popular fiber supplements and toxic medications.
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1. Thompson Lu et.al. Dietary flaxseed alters tumor biological markers in postmenopausal breast cancer. Clin Cancer Res. 2005 May 15; 11(10):3828-35
2. Touillaud MS. Dietary Lignan Intake and Postmenopausal Breast Cancer Risk by Estrogen and Progesterone Receptor Status J Natl Cancer Inst (2007) 99 (6): 475-486
3. Fabian CJ et.al. Reduction in Ki-67 in benign breast tissue of high-risk women with the lignan secoisolariciresinol diglycoside. Cancer Prev Res (Phila). 2010 Oct;3(10):1342-50.
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