Looking for a way to lower cholesterol naturally? An Iowa State University study shows flaxseed might do the trick. Suzanne Hendrich, an ISU professor in food science and human nutrition, led the study, which examined effects of a compressed form of flaxseed in 90 adults diagnosed with high cholesterol.
Results showed that consuming at least 150 milligrams of flaxseed lignans per day -- about three tablespoons -- decreased cholesterol for men by just under 10 percent over the three months of the study.
Hendrich said flaxseed lignans -- chemical compounds found in the plants -- could have protective health effects that flaxseed oil would not.
What surprised researchers was that the same effect was not seen in female study participants.
"I've been really perplexed by this," Hendrich said, surmising the difference is due to the differing sex hormones in men and women.
Results of the research will be presented in April at the American Society for Nutrition's annual meeting at Experimental Biology 2010, in Anaheim, Calif.
The outcome is less dramatic than what people taking cholesterollowering drugs might have, but Hendrich noted that not everyone can tolerate medication.
She said tests showed no adverse health reactions from the flaxseed.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 17 percent of Americans have high blood cholesterol, a fatlike substance that can clog arteries and contribute to heart disease.
The flaxseed tablets were made specifically for the study, but ground flaxseed meal could also work, Hendrich said.
Lignan compounds in flaxseed are metabolized by gut microbes, she said, and because those microorganisms vary from person to person, individual results also vary, with some people better able to absorb the compounds.
Hendrich said it would take a much larger and longer-term study to see if the compounds could prevent high cholesterol in the first place.
The $190,000 research study was jointly funded by the Archer Daniels Midland Company and Grow Iowa Values Fund.
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