The lignans (micronutrients) and sterols (organic molecules) found in flaxseed are recognised for lowering blood pressure. Less well known is that they also reduce lipid peroxidation, which is linked to cardiovascular disease. Lipid peroxidation occurs when cholesterol carriers such as low-density lipoproteins (LDL) become oxidised.
Lipid peroxidation causes free radicals, which damage blood vessel walls, producing the plaque that causes peripheral artery disease and other cardiovascular diseases.
The efficiency of lignans in flaxseed at lowering lipid peroxidation was shown in a study at the University of California. For six weeks, 37 middle-aged adults, divided into two groups, were given flaxseed bars. One group received a bar with flaxseed containing 0,41g lignans, and the other a bar with flaxseed containing 0,15g lignans. Both bars were otherwise identical.
The group that ate the highlignan bars daily had a 12% lower cholesterol level, a 15% lower LDL-cholesterol level, and a 25% lower level of oxidised LDL than the other group.
The conclusion was that high-lignan flax has the unique property of decreasing plaque-forming oxidised LDL cholesterol, a risk factor for cardiovascular disease as it damages blood vessel walls.
The safest form of flax is ground whole seeds. Fresh flax oil is healthy but as it can become rancid it is best avoided. • Johanita Louw has had a lifelong interest in holistic nutrition. Email her at farmer[email protected]ton.co.za. Subject line: Holistic health.