Flaxseed has remarkable therapeutic properties, with over 50 potential applications in the prevention and treatment of disease, as documented in the peer-reviewed biomedical literature itself*
Flaxseed’s role in breast cancer is one of the more compelling areas of research, considering this is the #1 form of cancer afflicting women today, and that most women still equate “prevention” with subjecting themselves to annual breast screenings involving highly carcinogenic 30 kVp gamma rays — overlooking entirely the role of diet, as well as avoidable chemical exposures.
Given that flaxseed already has an exceptional nutritional profile, there are a broad range of reasons to incorporate it into the diet, even if only as a nourishing food. The main reason why the public is so enthralled by flaxseed (and rightly so!) is for its relatively high levels of omega-3 fatty acids, and the density of soothing, mucilaginous fiber it contains. Now, an accumulating body of scientific research reveals flaxseed’s hitherto secret ‘second life’ as a medicinal powerhouse, confirming how timelessly true was Hippocrates proclamation that food is also medicine.
In 2005, the journal Clinical Cancer Research published a placebo-controlled study involving patients who received a 25 gram flaxseed-containing muffin over the course of 32 days. After observing a reduction in tumor markers and an increase in programmed cell death (apoptosis) in the flaxseed-treated patients, the authors concluded: “Dietary flaxseed has the potential to reduce tumor growth in patients with breast cancer.”
Additional animal research supports flaxseed’s role in suppressing human breast cancer. In immunosuppressed mice (thymus removed), flaxseed and an extract of pure secoisolariciresinol diglucoside from flaxseed was capable of suppressing the estrogen-fed (estradiol-17 beta) growth of transplanted human breast cancer tumors. Flaxseed does not just suppress estradiol production, as do blockbuster hormone-suppressive chemotherapy drugs like Arimidex (created by the chemical company which founded Breast Cancer Awareness Month!), but nudges estradiol metabolism into a positive direction by generating a higher ratio of the beneficial metabolite 2-hydroxyestrone versus the more harmful 16-hydroxylestrone.
The anti-cancer effects of flaxseed are not limited to breast cancer. Prostate cancer, another archetypally hormone-senstive cancer, is also benefited from this remarkable seed. In a 2008 study published in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, prostate cancer patients scheduled at least 21 days before prostate removal were randomnly assigned to one of 4 groups: 1) control (usual diet) 2) flaxseed-supplemented diet (30 g/d) 3) low-fat diet 4) flaxseed-supplemented, low-fat diet.
The authors noted “Proliferation rates were significantly lower (P < 0.002) among men assigned to the flaxseed arms.” The study concluded: “Findings suggest that flaxseed is safe and associated with biological alterations that may be protective for prostate cancer.”
How does flaxseed work to prevent and/or regress hormone-associated cancers? The surprising answer is it is due to flaxseed’s distinctively hormonal and/or hormone-modulating activity. Flaxseed contains compounds known as phytoestrogens which have the ability to interact with cellular estrogen receptors.
Although an increasingly common mantra in the conventional medical community (particularly in the field of oncology) is to identify all estrogens, including phytoestrogens, as “carcinogenic,” the weight of the evidence stands against this accusation, both in the case of soy and flaxseed. Our indexing project, for instance, has identified 36 studies on soy’s anti-breast cancer properties. It helps to understand the biochemistry in order to make sense of how a plant estrogen may actually reduce estrogen activity in the body.
The byproducts of flaxseed fermentive biotransformation in the colon: namely, enterodiol (END) and enterolactone (ENL), are known to modulate estrogen levels in tissues affected by these compounds. They are weakly estrogenic, which explains why they may alleviate hot flash symptoms in women dealing with hormone insufficiency, but are also antiestrogenic, capable of binding to estrogen receptors and blocking out more powerful estrogens (both endogenous and xenobiotic) at the same time.
This is also known as Selective Estrogen Receptor Modulation (SERM): the ability to down-regulate estrogen activity in one tissue (breast), and up-regulate it in another (bone or brain). Soy contains the phytoestrogen compound genistein, also a byproduct of the bacterial biotransformation, which shares in this dual-acting SERM activity.
Although drug companies have attempted to reproduce SERM-like effects with novel, synthetic compounds, often the unintended, adverse affects far outnumber the intended therapeutic ones. This is one reason why the discovery of pharmacologically active principles in foods, i.e. food as medicine, holds so much promise as the drug-driven system of conventional medicine begins to collapse under the growing weight of its own incompetence.
In the meantime, while you are enjoying flaxseed as a nourishing food.
One may gain protection from the following health conditions in the process
- Breast Cancer
- Dry Skin
- Prostatic Hyperplasia
- Breast Cancer: Prevention
- Diabetes Mellitus: Type 2
- Aging Skin
- High Cholesterol
- Lupus Nephritis
- Prostate Cancer
- Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity
- Cardiovascular Disease
- Cholesterol: LDL/HDL Raito
- Diabetes: Cardiovascular Disease
- Elevated CRP
- Estrogen Deficiency
- Hot Flash
- Meibomian gland dysfunction
- Metabolic Syndrome X
- Prostate: PSA Doubling Time
- Skin Diseases
- Colon Cancer
- Adiponectin: Low Levels
- Polycystic Kidney Disease
- Fatty Liver
- Abdominal Obesity
*The information provided in this document is not intended to diagnosis, prevent, treat or cure any disease. By sharing this information, we are pointing the viewer to the research itself as source of education.
Article Contributed by Sayer Ji, Founder of www.GreenMedInfo.com
Sayer Ji is an author, researcher, lecturer, and advisory board member of the National Health Federation. He founded Greenmedinfo.com in 2008 in order to provide the world an open access, evidence-based resource supporting natural and integrative modalities. It is internationally recognized as the largest and most widely referenced health resource of its kind.