Flaxseed has potential health benefits besides nutrition due to different reasons. First, it is high in the content of ω-3 α-linolenic acid. Secondly, it is rich in dietary soluble and contains insoluble fibres. Thirdly, the high content of lignans acts as antioxidants and phytoestrogens.

The health benefits of all ω-3 fatty acids, i.e., ALA, EPA and DHA, impact several conditions such as hypertension, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer, atherosclerosis, arthritis, osteoporosis, autoimmune and neurological disorders [1,2]. Flaxseed has been reported to act as an anti-atherogenic, anti-arrhythmic, and anti-inflammatory agent and improve vascular function.

Health benefits of flax Seed and its by-products:

Treatment of diabetes mellitus:

Increased blood sugar is a significant risk factor for cardiovascular diseases [3]. Diabetes mellitus is characterized by hyperglycaemia, associated with aberrations in the metabolism of carbohydrates, protein, and lipid that cause complications. Of the 57 million global deaths, diabetes is considered responsible for 1.3 million (3%) deaths, with figures likely to double by 2030. Untreated diabetes leads to kidney failure, cardiovascular diseases, and blindness [4]. Diseases like diabetes come with banes like obesity, hypertension, low HDL cholesterol and a high triglyceride level. Flaxseeds are packed with dietary fibres, lignans, and ω-3 fatty acids. They have a protective effect against diabetes risk. Diet supplementation is advised by experts for type 2 diabetics with 10 gm flaxseed powder for one month. This can reduce fasting blood glucose by 19.7 % and glycated haemoglobin by 15.6 %. This happens due to low glycaemic carbohydrates and higher content of dietary fibres in flaxseed [5]. The utilization of flaxseed for glycaemic control is associated with a decrease in the risk of obesity and dyslipidemia.

Tumour and cancer reducing effects:

Flaxseed ingestion reduces the effects on the risk of cancer. Many researches prove that flaxseed prevents the development of breast, skin, colon, and lung tumours while reducing blood vessel cell formation [6]. This reflects the protective effect against cancerous cells. Boosted insulin and insulin-like growth factor 1 can increase cancer risk. Blood insulin is directly related to an increased risk of colorectal & pancreatic cancers. Flaxseed in the diet has the potential to lower circulating levels of IGF-1 and insulin. Flaxseed has a breast tumour-reducing effect due to the high content of SDG lignan [7]. Flax lignans’ potential breast cancer-protective effect could be due to their weak estrogenic activity and antioxidant properties. Studies suggest the ability of flaxseed to help maintain the early stages of cancer. [8]

Preventing kidney diseases

Chronic kidney disease is a rising concern among older adults. This is a cause of end-stage renal diseases requiring dialysis or transplantation for survival. The anti-inflammatory properties of ω-3 fatty acids safeguard the kidneys against long-term damage [9]. Increased dietary intake of long-chain ω-3 PUFA is inversely related to CKD prevalence. Hypertension is another risk factor for CKD. Reduction of dyslipidemia and cardiovascular diseases (CVD) Serum lipid profile is directly related to the risk factors of cardiovascular diseases [10]. Studies show that flaxseed and related bioactive components positively affect postmenopausal women, including hypocholesterolemic and antidiabetic effects of supplementation. Dietary flaxseed also protects against ischemic heart disease by improving vascular relaxation responses and inhibiting ventricular fibrillation incidence [11].

Prevention and treatment of obesity

Flaxseed fibres form highly viscous solutions upon hydration. This is generally effective in the suppression of hunger [12]. Soluble non-starch dietary fibres of flaxseed mucilage are multi-branched hydrophilic substances. Viscous solutions from flax delay gastric emptying and absorb nutrients from the small bowel [13]. In conditions like obesity, leptin is under-expressed by the adipose tissue in response to a consistently high caloric diet, or leptin receptors may be down-regulated. This leads to high plasma leptin levels [14]. The study proves that consumption of flaxseed significantly increases plasma and adipose levels of ALA.

Traditional treatment of bowel syndrome

Constipation is a significant health problem due to excessive refined diet in Western culture. A well-known fact is that sufficient dietary fibre is a must to avoid and treat constipation [15]. The metabolism of flaxseed fibre is incredibly beneficial like any other dietary fibre. Dietary fibres are a natural way to manage irritable bowel syndrome [16]. This is the first line of treatment for such conditions since the 1970s and 1980s. Many studies prove that consuming 50 g of flaxseed per day for four weeks can significantly impact several nutrition indices in young, healthy adults .

Use of whole flaxseeds and flaxseed oil for consumption

For centuries flax seeds have been used as natural medicine, and it is regaining their status as a functional food. You can use flaxseed as roasted and milled seeds, while flaxseed oil is readily available in various food formulations. You can also add ground flax seed into mixed grain bread. Flax or flaxseed oil can also be incorporated into baked foods, juices, milk and dairy products, muffins, etc [17].

The main advantage of milled flaxseed in bakery products is its carbohydrate (gums) and protein fractions. Flaxseed gum is responsible to:

  • Enhances viscosity, best at pH 6–8.
  • Soothes foam and protein-based emulsions.
  • Increase absorption in bread while improving loaf volume, oven spring, and maintaining quality.
  • Improve subjective and objective bread characteristics.
  • Affect shear rate just like gum arabic.
  • Acts as a promising “food thickener” & “improving agent” in baked goods.

Due to the high mucilage content, flaxseeds have high-water absorption, moisture-binding capacity, and lubricity. This helps dough puffing and throughput during extrusion processing or as a trans-fat free shortening alternative for baked foods where water absorption impacts the mixing time and dough-handling characteristics. Omega-3 enriched foods provide more food choices to consumers seeking to increase ω-3 content in their diet. [18]

Ending Note:

Based on the information stated above from various scientific studies, it is evident that flaxseeds are the richest source of lignans & α-linolenic acid. It is a healthy and potent source of soluble fibre, antioxidants and high-quality protein. The long journey that flaxseed has covered, from being a medicine in ancient times to a healthy food source in the 21st century, has opened doors for immense application and potential.

The food industry’s goal is to develop innovative solutions to address nutritional challenges. Flaxseed can play a vital role in this direction through its effective properties. Flaxseed can contribute by improving the availability of healthy food choices, specifically by improving the nutrient profile of foods through reductions of salt, sugar and saturated fat content. It also emphasizes increasing the content of ω-3 fatty acids and other bioactive compounds.

With these contributing factors, the worldwide market for healthy heart foods is estimated to grow rapidly in the coming years. Flax and flaxseed oil have immense potential usage and can be preferred ingredients for functional foods and nutraceuticals in future. Read more here about the nutritional elements of flaxseeds (link to be inserted when flaxseed article is live).

Like flax seeds, read here more about some old Nigella sativa, also known as black seed. It is a medicinal plant used to cure disease and is known as a miracle herb, with a rich historical and religious background and immense potential. Explore here more about the health benefits of pumpkin seeds.

Nature has in it all that we humans need to survive, repair and maintain our bodies. Staying grounded in our cultural values and traditional systems, we can explore several potential benefits that may leave us astonished and blessed for our remaining lives!

References and Sources:

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