What are the Benefits of Dietary Flaxseed?
A recent clinical trial has found that dietary flaxseeds reduce tumor growth in breast cancer patients within weeks as affectively as chemotherapy.
Health experts believe this is likely due to a class of phytonutrients known as lignans present in flaxseeds at levels up to 800 times that found in other plant foods.
Earlier, 3 population studies on thousands of breast cancer patients had indicated that lignans show great promise in breast cancer therapy.
A population study from New York reported significantly reduced risks of overall mortality and especially breast cancer mortality associated with higher lignan consumption in postmenopausal women.
In another population study, Italian women who were getting their primary breast tumors removed also had some blood drawn. Within 5 years, those women who had lower circulating levels of lignans were significantly more likely to die from their cancer returning than those with more lignans in their blood.
In the largest population study, performed in Germany, postmenopausal breast cancer patients who had the most lignans in their blood lived the longest and tended to live the longest disease-free.
To understand how lignans may be doing this - the chemotherapy drug tamoxifen works by boosting the levels of ‘angiogenesis inhibitors’ such as endostatin, which starve tumors of their blood supply. If a breast cancer patient is given tamoxifen for 6 weeks, endostatin levels within the fluids bathing breast cells rise, depriving breast cancer cells of vital blood supply and the nutrients they need to grow.
Amazingly, breast cancer cells appear to be similarly deprived when instead of being given tamoxifen, patients consume three and a half tablespoons of ground flaxseeds daily.
In this study, breast cancer patients were randomized and given either a flaxseed-containing muffin or a control placebo muffin every day between the time of their first biopsy and surgery. Researchers took tumor samples before the start of the study and about a month after the start.
Patients in the flaxseed group saw their tumor cell proliferation go down and cancer cell death go up, along with a reduction in levels of a marker that indicates cancer aggressiveness and potential for forming metastases and spreading.
If the therapeutic effects seen in this short-term study remain the same over the long term, dietary flaxseed has the potential to reduce tumor growth in breast cancer patients.
In other words flaxseed, which is both inexpensive and readily available, may one day soon be used as a dietary alternative or supplement to currently used breast cancer drugs.
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