The Controversial Flax Seed: Benefits Your Health or Not? (Part 2 of 3)

While there is some controversy over whether or not consuming flax seed is helpful for preventing cancer, there is a good deal of research which demonstrates how flax seed benefits health in many other ways.

flax seed

Researchers conclude that daily dietary intake of flax seed offers not only offers protection against bone loss, but may actually help increase bone density, thereby reducing the risk of osteoporosis.

In part one of this article, you learned that flax seeds contain many healthy antioxidants including vitamins, minerals, and essential fatty acids. While there is some controversy over whether or not consuming flax is helpful for preventing cancer, there is a good deal of research which demonstrates how flax seed benefits health in many other ways.

Diabetes

Flax seeds are a good source of both soluble and insoluble fiber.  Studies show that soluble fiber may help lower blood sugar levels by slowing the absorption of glucose through the small intestine, which prevents the rapid insulin spikes that can occur after eating. 

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Research also suggests that daily intake of the lignans in flax seed may modestly improve blood sugar in adults with type 2 diabetes. In a study conducted by researchers of the University of Toronto, healthy participants were provided one of two types of bread for breakfast. The first group received bread made with a total of 50 grams (approximately 5 tablespoons) of ground flax seed, while the second group received bread made with wheat flour. The findings clearly showed that flax had an immediate impact on blood sugar levels as the flax group’s blood sugar dropped 27% one hour after eating.[1]

Weight Loss

Due to the combination of both healthy fats and the high fiber content in flax seeds, they are great for people who want to achieve healthy weight loss. Flax seeds are also very low in carbohydrates, so they are ideal for people who limit their intakes of starches and sugars while following a low carb/low glycemic diet. In fact, many protestors of low carbohydrate diets argue that that this type of diet is harmful as it hinders a person’s ability to consume an adequate amount of fiber. But, flax is a good alternative source of fiber that doesn’t cause the spike in insulin levels the way other fiber sources do (breads, cereals, etc). Moreover, many people have found that flax seeds help to keep them feeling full and satisfied.

Hot Flashes

A Mayo Clinic study on menopausal women reported that 2 tablespoons of ground flax seed mixed into foods twice a day cut their hot flashes in half and the intensity of their hot flashes dropped by 57%, resulting in major improvements in their quality of life.  Participants in the study even noticed improvements in their mood and in joint and muscle pain. The best part – the women noticed the benefits after taking the daily flax seed for just one week, and achieved the maximum benefit within two weeks.[2] Therefore, incorporating flax seeds can be a quick fix to overcome the dreaded menopausal symptoms without the use of potentially harmful hormone replacement therapy.

Osteoporosis Treatment

A study published in the International Journal of Food Safety, Nutrition and Public Health, concluded that flaxseed oil has a beneficial effect on bone mineral density and reduces markers associated with osteoporosis in post-menopausal and diabetic women.[3] Researchers conclude that daily dietary intake of flax seed offers not only offers protection against bone loss, but may actually help increase bone density, thereby reducing the risk of osteoporosis.

Lowering Cholesterol Naturally

Both flax seeds and flaxseed oil have been used to help reduce total blood cholesterol and LDL (“bad”) cholesterol levels.[4] The lignans in flax seed are also responsible for slowing the progression of plaques and decreasing oxidative stress that harms the lining of blood vessels.[5] It is important to note that although flaxseed oil also contains omega-3 fatty acids, it doesn’t have the beneficial fiber that the seeds have.

Who Shouldn’t Take Flax Seeds?

So the flax seed benefits seem quite substantial. But before you head out and buy flax seeds, be sure to read Part 3 of 3 to discover why some people should avoid them completely!

Originally published in 2012, this blog has been updated.


[1] British Journal of Nutrition. 1993 Mar;69(2):443-53.

[2] Sandhya Pruthi, M.D., director, Mayo Breast Clinic, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn.; Wulf H. Utian, M.D., Ph.D., executive director, North American Menopause Society, and consultant, Cleveland Clinic, Ohio; Journal of the Society for Integrative Oncology, 2007.

[3] “Impact of feeding flaxseed oil on delaying the development of osteoporosis in ovariectomized diabetic rats”, International Journal of Food Safety, Nutrition and Public Health, 2009, 2, 189-201.

[4] Mayo Clinic.

[5] Journal of Cardiovascular Pharmacology Ther. 2009 Mar;14(1):38-48.

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