The World's Healthiest Foods

Flaxseed Lowers Cholesterol in Postmenopausal Women

At the onset of menopause, a woman's risk of cardiovascular disease drastically increases. Until recently, women were told that conventional hormone replacement therapy (Premarin and progestin) could offer protection against this increased cardiovascular risk, but studies have now conclusively shown that this is not the case. So, what can a woman do to protect her heart during and after menopause?

One simple, yet powerful action a woman can take is to make flaxseed, one of the World’s Healthiest Foods, a daily part of her healthy way of eating. A study published in the September 2002 issue of the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, found that flaxseed, a rich source of phytoestrogens called lignans, reduced total cholesterol levels in the blood of postmenopausal women by an average of 6%. These results led study authors, Dr. Bahram H. Arjmandi from Oklahoma State University in Stillwater and colleagues to conclude: "flaxseed is effective in reducing...known risk factors of coronary heart disease."

Practical Tips

Here are a few of the serving ideas provided by the World’s Healthiest Foods to help you lower your risk for cardiovascular disease by enjoying flaxseed:

  • Sprinkle ground flaxseeds over your hot or cold cereal.
  • Add flaxseeds to your homemade muffin, cookie or bread recipe.
  • Pump up the nutritional volume of your breakfast shake by adding a tablespoon of ground flax seeds.
  • To give cooked vegetables a nuttier flavor, sprinkle some ground flaxseeds on top of them.

Want to learn more about the many other benefits offered by this lignan-rich seed, truly one of the World’s Healthiest Foods, click flaxseed. For a list of the World’s Healthiest Foods’ recipes containing flaxseed, click on the Recipe Assistant, select flaxseed on the healthy foods list, and click on the Submit button. A list containing links to all our recipes containing flaxseed will appear immediately below.

Research Summary

The purpose of this study was to examine the effects of flaxseed, a rich source of phytoestrogens called lignans, on lipid metabolism and biomarkers of bone turnover in postmenopausal women. Phytoestrogens are thought to protect the cardiovascular system, in part, by improving lipid profiles. (Lipids are the building blocks of all fats or fatty substances in plants and animals. In animals, they are composed mainly of cholesterol, triglycerides, proteins (called lipoproteins), and phospholipids.)

In this double-blind randomized trial, 36 postmenopausal women who were not on hormone replacement therapy were given either 40 grams (approximately 3 tablespoons) of either ground flaxseed or a wheat-based control daily for 3 months. All of the women also took a supplement containing 1,000 milligrams of calcium and 400 international units of vitamin D, which helps the body to absorb calcium.

Among the women given flaxseed, blood levels of total cholesterol dropped 6% while no reduction in cholesterol occurred in the women given the wheat. In women on the flaxseed regimen, blood levels of both LDL and HDL cholesterol dropped by 4.7%, and triglycerides dropped 12.8%, resulting in only a minor reduction in the ratio of "bad" to "good" cholesterol. However, in the women given flaxseed, blood levels of apolipoprotein A-1 and apolipoprotein B were reduced by 6 and 7.5% respectively. Research suggests that these cholesterol-carrying molecules are a more sensitive indicator of heart disease risk than cholesterol alone.

Neither the flaxseed nor the wheat had any effect on markers of bone formation or resorption.

Reference: Lucas EA, Wild RD, Hammond LJ, Khalil DA, Juma S, Daggy BP, Stoecker BJ, Arjmandi BH. Flaxseed improves lipid profile without altering biomarkers of bone metabolism in postmenopausal women. J Clin Endocrinol Metab 2002 Apr;87(4):1527-32.

This page was updated on: 2003-12-22 00:15:51
© 2002 The George Mateljan Foundation