The Many Benefits of Lignans
Lignans are phytonutrients that have both soluble and insoluble fiber. Lignans are antioxidants that may also support the immune system. Additionally, lignans are excellent for balancing hormone levels in the body. In women, they help balance estrogen levels; in men, they help balance the testosterone-DHT relationship and inhibit certain enzymes needed to convert testosterone to DHT. This results in lower DHT levels, which may improve prostate health and may help maintain testosterone levels. In men, women, and animals, lignans inhibit HSD enzyme, which helps reduce levels of the stress hormone, cortisol. They also have anti-estrogenic effects and can prevent naturally occurring (and sometimes radical) hormones from binding to estrogen receptors and exerting their negative effects. Lignans provide a weaker, cleaner estrogen to balance any deficit or surplus. There are 9 main potential health benefits from flaxseed lignans. Read more benefits below.
Studies have shown that women with high levels of lignans in their bodies, as measured from urine and/or blood samples, may have better breast health. Read more here
Lignans Reduce LDL (Bad) Cholesterol Levels
A study by the University of California at Davis concluded that "High-lignan Flax has the unique property of decreasing Ox-LDL." Read the full report found on the US government National Institute of Health web site at this link: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23885993. To read more about lignans and healthy cholesterol
levels, click here.
Lignans have a higher antioxidant (ORAC) Value than any other fruit or vegetable published in the USDA database.
Diets rich in foods containing plant lignans (whole grains, nuts, seeds, legumes, fruits, and vegetables) have been consistently associated with reductions in risk of cardiovascular disease. However, it is likely that numerous nutrients and phytochemicals found in these foods contribute to their cardioprotective effects. In a prospective cohort study of 1,889 Finnish men followed for an average of 12 years, those with the highest serum enterolactone levels (a marker of plant lignan intake) were significantly less likely to suffer from coronary heart disease (CHD) or cardiovascular disease than those with the lowest levels. (Source: Linus Pauling Institute)
Ovarian and Uterine Health
Lignans have anti-estrogenic properties that mimic estrogen and bind to estrogen receptors, but they do not have the same antagonistic effects of estrogen. Plant estrogens are a cleaner form of estrogen and when more plant lignans are consumed, more normally occurring (endogenous) estrogen is flushed out of the body. It is believed that this is the mechanism behind the studies that indicate better ovarian and uterine health.
A case-controlled study conducted in Scotland found that higher serum enterolactone concentrations (a result of lignan intake) were associated with better prostate health. Enterolactone is produced in the intestines by bacteria acting on lignans.
Flaxseed SDG may have a therapeutic role in lupus nephritis. (Clark W. et al Lupus,: 429, 2000.) Another study found that vegetarian men (with diets high in plant lignans) have better prostate health than omnivorous males. Plant lignans give rise to the mammalian lignans, enterodiol and enterolactone; the richest source is linseed (flaxseed). Click the following link to read more about Prostate Health
Flaxseed, the richest source of mammalian lignan precursors, such as secoisolariciresinol diglycoside (SDG), has been shown over the short term to decrease some early markers of colon health risk.
Flaxseed Hulls are high in fiber and lignans. The fiber is good for digestion, absorbing impurities and cleansing the colon. Fiber has been known to improve bowel movements as well as reduce the rate of colon cancer.
Hot Flashes and Menopause
A Mayo clinic study shows that, "lignans provide a more natural estrogen treatment for menopause and hot flashes than synthetic hormone therapy and therefore are a potentially healthier treatment for both." Sandhya Pruthi, MD. Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN. Published February 1, 2008.
There are studies that indicate that people with high amounts of lignans in their bodies have better hair health. Poor hair health can be caused by the hormone DHT. Flaxseed lignans can inhibit the production of the enzyme that converts testosterone into DHT. An Asian study on men over a 6 month period also showed significant improvement in hair health in an average of 2 months after taking lignans.
Reactive oxygen species (ROS) have been implicated in the development of diabetes mellitus. SDG isolated from flaxseed is an antioxidant. An investigation of SDG's effect on diabetes in rats was made to determine whether SDG could prevent/reduce the development of diabetes and if this prevention/reduction is associated with reduction in oxidative stress. RESULTS: SDG prevented the development of diabetes by 75%. (Prasad K, et a, Mol. Cell Biochem, 206(1-2): 2000; Prasad K. Mol. Cell Biochem. 209(1-2): 89.2000)