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For Men Flaxseed can Lower Cholesterol Levels

Kathleen Blanchard's picture

About three tablespoons (150mg) of flaxseed incorporated into the daily diet was found to reduce cholesterol levels in a group of men studied. Flaxseed, over three months, lowered cholesterol by ten percent in men, but the same benefit was not found in women.

Though the benefits of flaxseed for lowering cholesterol don’t compare to taking statin drugs, researcher Suzanne Hendrich from Iowa State University says the findings offer a natural treatment that can be an aternative cholesterol treatment for men who either prefer not to take statin drugs, or experience side effects or might be at high risk for complications from cholesterol lowering drugs.

"Because there are people who can't take something like Lipitor, this could at least give you some of that cholesterol-lowering benefit," Hendrich said. "The other thing is, there are certainly some people who would prefer to not use a drug, but rather use foods to try to maintain their health. So this potentially would be something to consider."

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The scientists investigated the main lignan in flaxseed, secoisolariciresinol diglucoside, to find the benefits of lowering cholesterol in men, in a study of 90 individuals with no other health conditions. The effect on cholesterol lowering may be the result of flaxseed lignans that provide health benefits when converted to bioactive compounds in the gut.

Flaxseed was found to lower cholesterol levels in men but not women, findings that Hendrich says are difficult to understand. The study included women who were post-menopausal. Flaxseed contains plant lignans that might have an estrogen effect.

Hendrich explains, "So potentially, (flaxseed) would have a mild effect for substituting some estrogens in women. It's really hard to know why (flaxseed did not lower cholesterol in women) and whether these substances are counteracting, possibly, some testosterone in men, which of course women don't have. It's definitely something we'd like to investigate further."

The researchers used flaxseed tablets for the study that are not available in the US, but the researchers say men can simply sprinkle about thee tablespoons of flaxseed oil on food for lower their cholesterol levels. Further studies are planned to find the benefits of other natural substances that could be combined to lower cholesterol levels without using drugs and prevent high cholesterol from developing. Flaxseed is also shown to help boost immunity, making it a natural choice for better health.

Iowa State University