Professor Hugh Watkins on genetic medicines for heart disease
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Functional foods are increasing in popularity due to their therapeutic potential against cardiovascular disease. Research suggests flaxseeds, may be among the best foods for de-clogging arteries after a study showed it reduced plaque formation by 40 percent. These effects have been attributed to several compounds unique to the seed.
Flaxseeds are a mini nutrition powerhouse that offers a wealth of healthy fats, vitamins and minerals.
They’ve been widely used as traditional food and remedy in Mediterranean cultures for thousands of years.
The seed and its oil, (extracted from crushed seeds) share several health properties which have proven useful for the prevention of chronic health conditions.
One of their star ingredients is SDG lignan, an anti-inflammatory and cholesterol polyphenol known to counter the effects of atherosclerosis.
In a study published in the American Journal of Physiology-Heart and Circulatory Physiology, researchers observed drastic reductions in plaque formation in rodents consuming the seeds.
The study departed from the understanding that dietary flaxseed can retard the profession of atherosclerotic plaques. It remained to be seen, however, whether these antiatherogenic effects extended to plaque regression.
The results revealed: “Dietary flaxseed supplementation resulted in a significant 40 percent reduction in plaque formation.”
The researchers, therefore, concluded: “Dietary flaxseed is a valuable strategy to accelerate the regression of atherosclerotic plaques.”
The animals displayed improved contraction and vessel relaxation, warranting further research on the potential of flax seed in de-clogging arteries in humans.
What’s more, though there is reliable evidence that the seeds may reduce cholesterol levels and plaque formation, there is little proof they protect against heart disease.
Other health benefits of flaxseed
The small golden brown seeds are the richest natural source of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), which can help maintain a healthy heart rhythm and help stave off disease.
WebMD says: “Ground flaxseed – but not flaxseed oil – may also help with menopausal symptoms.
“[It] has also been shown in some research to improve kidney function in people with lupus.”
It may also possibly be effective against constipation, diabetes, high blood pressure and beast pain, although more research is needed to confirm this.
Harvard Health says: “Flaxseeds, which have a slightly nutty taste, contain other healthful nutrients, including protein, fibre and lignin (plant chemicals with antioxidant effects.”
Small studies suggest these phytochemicals are accountable for the reductions in cholesterol levels and blood pressure.
They may also reduce triglycerides, which contribute to plaque formation in a similar way to cholesterol.
However, research on this remains limited and the results produced so far have been mixed.
WebMD cautions that the seeds’ extract may produce side effects when taken at higher doses.
Though minor, these may include bloating, gas, stomachache and nausea. Extracts that contain lignans, however, tend to be safe.
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