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Flaxseed and health

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  • Flaxseed and health

    The seeds and oil of the flax plant contain substances which promote good health. Flaxseed and flaxseed oil are rich in alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), an essential fatty acid that appears to be beneficial for heart disease. ALA belongs to a group of substances called omega-3 fatty acids.
    Good health requires the right ratio of Omega 3 fatty acids to Omega 6 fatty acids in the diet. The ideal ratio is around 1:2. The average american diet is more around 1:20 to 1:50, with way too much Omega 6 and not enough Omega 3. The ratio present in Flaxseed oil is about 4:1. So flaxseed oil is a good source of Omega 3. You should consume every day small portions of flaxseed or flaxseed oil. However if flaxseed oil is used in the diet for long time, without other oils, it may cause Omega 6 LA deficiency symptoms. So the best bet is to blend flaxseed oil with other oils that contain more Omega 6, in order to get the right balance, such as sesame oil, sunflower oil, evening primrose oil.
    Flaxseed oil is good for the heart because it is the richest source of alpha-linolenic acid. Flaxseed itself (ground or whole) also contains lignans, which may have antioxidant actions and may help protect against certain cancers, though not everyone agrees on this issue.
    Benefits of including some flaxseed in your diet
    Flaxseeds and flaxseed oil may help to:
    - Lower cholesterol, protect against heart disease and control high blood pressure. Several studies indicate that flaxseed oil, as well as ground flaxseeds, can lower cholesterol, thereby significantly reducing the risk of heart disease. Flaxseed oil may also have a protective effect against angina (chest pain) and high blood pressure. In addition, a 5-year study done recently at Boston's Simmons College found that flaxseed oil may be useful in preventing a 2nd heart attack. It may also help prevent elevated blood pressure by inhibiting inflammatory reactions that cause poor circulation and artery-hardening plaque.
    - Counter inflammation associated with lupus and gout. Omega-3 fatty acids appear to limit the inflammatory reaction associated with these conditions. In cases of lupus, flaxseed oil not only reduces inflammation in the joints, kidneys and skin, but also lowers cholesterol levels that may be elevated by the disease. Taking flaxseed oil for gout may lessen the often sudden and severe joint pain or swelling that is a symptom of this condition.
    - Control constipation, hemorrhoids, diverticular disorders. Because they are high in soluble fiber, ground flaxseeds can help ease the passage of stools and thus relieve constipation, hemorrhoids and diverticular disease.
    - Reduce cancer risk. The lignans in flaxseed appear to play a role in protecting against breast, colon, prostate, and perhaps skin cancer. In one study, prostate cancer patients who added about 3 heaping tablespoons of ground flaxseed daily to their diet, had more slowly-dividing tumor cells and a greater rate of tumor cell death than men who did not follow such a diet, after about 5 weeks.
    The researchers found no significant difference in levels of prostate specific antigen (PSA), a protein in the blood which indicates prostate cancer progression, between the 2 groups - although men in the early stages of the disease experienced a trend toward lower levels.
    Prostate cancer is the most common cancer among American men, excluding skin cancers. The American Cancer Society estimates that more than 198,000 new cases of prostate cancer are diagnosed in the U.S. each year. While the cancer will be diagnosed in about 1 in 6 men, about 1 in 30 will die of the disease.
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