Flaxseed lowers cholesterol in patients with peripheral artery disease

Fish oil’s worth in lowering cholesterol has been well established with time, but how good is flaxseed at providing the same benefit?

Flaxseed is well known as a source of the omega-3 alpha-linolenic acid and as a vegetarian/vegan alternative to fish oil.

Fish oil’s worth in lowering cholesterol has been well established with time, but how good is flaxseed at providing the same benefit?

According to a study published in the Journal of Nutrition, quite good! In fact, dietary flaxseed offers impressive results in lowering cholesterol in healthy subjects with mild biomarkers of cardiovascular disease.

In this double-blind, randomised, placebo-controlled trial, researchers examined the effects of a diet supplemented for 12 months with foods that contained either 30g of milled flaxseed (intervention group; n=58) or 30g of whole wheat (placebo group; n=52) in patients diagnosed with peripheral artery disease (PAD). Plasma lipids were measured at baseline and after 1, 6 and 12 months of the intervention.

The PAD patients in the flaxseed group saw a 15% reduction in circulating low-density lipoprotein (LDL, or 'bad' cholesterol) as early as 1 month into the trial. These patients also registered lower total cholesterol counts as compared with the placebo group at 1 month (11%, p=0.05) and 6 months (11%, p=0.07).

In a subgroup of patients taking flaxseed and statins (n=36), LDL-cholesterol concentrations were lowered by 8.5% ± 3.0% compared with baseline after 12 months. This result was significantly different from a placebo-plus-statins subgroup (n=26), which saw an increase of 3.0% ± 4.4% (p=0.030) in LDL-cholesterol concentrations.

The takeaway for practitioners? Milled flaxseed perceptibly lowered total and LDL cholesterol in patients with PAD, and using it as an adjunct therapy to statins has additional LDL-cholesterol-lowering capabilities. Of note, this study does not compare flaxseed with fish oil and no comparative benefits can be drawn from this study.

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