Flax can help to reduce some of the risk factors associated with cardiovascular disease (CVD).
Chronic inflammation is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease. See the section below on 'Inflammation and the Immune System'. Flax seed oil consumption has been shown to reduce inflammatory markers C-reactive protein, cytokines and platelet activating factor (PAF).
Flax fibre is a good source of soluble dietary fibre. High soluble fibre intake has been linked to a reduction in elevated LDL cholesterol levels, another cardiovascular risk factor. Clinical trials demonstrated a 9 -18% reduction in LDL cholesterol after eating 2 - 6 tablespoons of milled flax daily for four weeks. This benefit has also been seen in trials with whole flax seeds and with muffins containing partially defatted flax seed.
The flexibility of the arteries has been shown to be favourably affected by flax seed oil consumption.
The level of cell adhesion molecules, which contribute to plaque build up in the arteries and subsequent atherosclerosis, have been shown to be decreased on a diet rich in alpha-linolenic acid (ALA).
Several large population studies have suggested that the Omega-3 essential fatty acid alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) found in flax seed plays a role in decreasing the risk of cardiovascular disease.
Studies found that diets rich in ALA were inversely associated with fatal ischemic heart disease, a risk of heart attack, a risk of recurrent heart attack and death, a risk of stroke, a risk of death from CVD and risk of arrhythmia, which are a major cause of death from acute heart attacks.
A 1992 review by the British Nutrition Foundation of over 600 studies on the role of EFAs in nutrition found that flax seed oil consumption reduces blood pressure.