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Health Questions

Is flax seed oil a natural food?

YES.   We recommend Waihi Bush organic farm Flax seed oil to be part of and not a replacement for a healthy and balanced diet. Please follow all label instructions. Waihi Bush organic farm is a natural whole food and is not meant to prevent, diagnose or cure any disease condition. People with specific nutrient deficiencies may also need professional advice and should consult their Healthcare Practitioner.

ADHD

In 1987, E A Mitchell found a correlation between attention deficit/hyperactivity and low blood levels of the Omega-3 fatty acid DHA and the Omega-6 fatty acid AA. 8 years later, researchers at Purdue University found that children with ADHD had too many Omega-6 fatty acids in relation to Omega-3s and they found that boys with lower Omega-3 fatty acids in their blood had more learning and behavioural problems than those who had normal levels. The most common behavioural difficulties in those with low Omega-3 fatty acids were temper tantrums, impulsivity, anxiety and hyperactivity. Classic signs of fatty acid deficiency e.g. excessive thirst, frequent urination, dry hair and dry skin often accompanied these problems.

Flax seed oil is effective at rebalancing a skewed Omega-6:Omega-3 ratio because it contains 3 times as much Omega-3 as Omega-6.

flax boost and flax magic are the products of choice to address fatty acid imbalances associated with behavioural problems because they contain a wide range of Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids, making them easy for the body to use.

For information on the ADHD Association, a charity Functional Whole Foods New Zealand Ltd. is proud to sponsor (50c from the sale of every bottle of flax magic goes directly to support children with ADHD).

Arrhythmia Prevention

Arrhythmias are abnormal rhythms of the heart muscle, for example skipping a beat an extra beat, or a totally disorganised heartbeat (fibrillation). Some of these conditions are life-threatening.

The pumping of the heart is controlled by electrical impulses generated by special cells in the wall of the heart (the pacemaker).

There is growing evidence that increasing Omega-3 fats in the diet can help to prevent sudden death from arrhythmia. It appears that the Omega-3 fats help the heart muscle cells to remain electrically stable.

Summary of studies:

  • A ration of milled flax raised the alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) content of heart tissue in rabbits and protected them against ventricular fibrillation. (Ander BP et al, J Nutr. 2004;134:3250-3256)
  • Pure preparations of ALA (found in flax seed oil), EPA and DHA (found in cold water oily fish) were found to be equally effective in protecting against fatal arrhythmia in dogs. (Billman GE et al, Circulation. 1999:99:2452-2457)
  • Elderly humans who regularly ate tuna or other broiled or baked fish had a lower incidence of arterial fibrillation than those who rarely ate such fish, or who ate fried fish. (Mozaffarian D et al, Circulation. 2004;110:368-373)
  • Men and women with the highest intakes of plant Omega-3 were found to have shorter QT intervals when their heartbeat was checked by electrocardiogram. A shortened QT interval is associated with a lesser incidence of arrhythmia. (Djousse L et al, J Am Coll Cardiol. 2005;45:1716-1722) )
  • Patients who had suffered a heart attack were found to be less likely to have a further, fatal heart attack or stroke if given an Omega-3 supplement. (GISSI-Prevenzione Investigators, Lancet. 1999;354:447-455)
  • Omega-3 administration during hospitalisation in patients undergoing coronary artery bypass surgery substantially reduced the incidence of postoperative arterial fibrillation and was associated with a shorter hospital stay. (Calo L et al, J Am Coll Cardiol. 2005;45:1723-1728)

 

Athletes and Muscle Recovery

Many sports people add flax seed oil into their dietary regimen to take advantage of the benefits of Omega-3 fatty acids.

Omega-3s can help with:

  • Shortened recovery time for fatigued muscles due to increased rate of lactic acid breakdown
  • Increased oxygen uptake and utilisation leading to increased energy levels
  • Enhanced athletic performance
  • Improved endurance and stamina
  • Anti-inflammatory properties reduce muscle soreness after workout/game
  • Reduced healing time for bruises, strains and sprains
  • Better regulated steroid production and hormone synthesis
  • Increased metabolic rate
  • Providing the body with the essential fats it requires without increasing body fat
  • Enhanced protein metabolism (while reducing catabolism)
Bowel Health

Flax can benefit bowel health in a number of different ways.

Firstly, flax contains both soluble and insoluble dietary fibre.   These fibres absorb water and thus increase intestinal bulk, helping with both constipation and diarrhoea.   Unlike harsh fibre supplements like wheat bran, flax is soothing and gentle on the intestinal walls because it forms a gel-like mucilage on contact with water.   A study of the effects of flax fibre on laxation demonstrated that both healthy young adults and the institutionalised elderly (who often have chronic constipation due to their inactivity) experienced an increased frequency of bowel movements eating muffins containing flax fibre for 4 weeks.

For inflammatory bowel conditions, the Omega-3 fatty acids in flax seed oil act as precursors for anti-inflammatory eicosanoids.   Flax seed oil and even the residual oil in flax fibre can, therefore, help to soothe inflammation in conditions such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome and Inflammatory Bowel Disease.

The lignans in flax are converted in the colon to mammalian lignans which have an antioxidant and immune-boosting effect on the human body.   Mammalian lignans have been shown to inhibit the growth of human colon cancer cells in a test tube study.   Studies with rats have also demonstrated an anti-cancer effect from eating flax fibre.

 

Cancer Prevention

Cancer is a complex process that involves many small, gradual changes in the behaviour of normal cells. Many factors affect the growth of mutant cells, including cytokines, hormones, oxygen, eicosanoids, energy and nutrients. When conditions are favourable, mutant cells may grow to form a tumour that may develop its own network of blood vessels to sustain its growth.

Flax may inhibit certain cancer processes:

  • Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), the Omega-3 fatty acid found in flax seed oil alters the composition of cell membranes, inhibiting the release of pro-inflammatory eicosanoids which are agents that help to control the growth of tumour cells and modulate the cycle of natural cell death
  • The lignan SDG in flax works as a phytoestrogen and antioxidant. In an animal study, SDG was found to decrease the number, size and metastasis of melanoma
  • Foods high in dietary fibre like flax contain bioactive substances like antioxidants that may inhibit cancer processes

Breast Cancer

In animal studies, flax seed oil has been shown to have a preventative effect against breast cancer, a slower growth rate of tumours and decreased metastasis. A French study found that the concentration of ALA, DHA and total Omega-3 fatty acids in fat tissue were all related to the low risk of breast cancer. A preliminary study in Canada found that women who ate a daily muffin containing ground flax experienced significant reductions in breast cancer growth compared with women eating a whole wheat muffin.

Colon Cancer

An animal study showed that those animals fed ground flax and defatted ground flax had less colon cancer markers and cell proliferation than control animals. Tests done with human colon cancer cells have also shown lignans derived from flax to have an inhibiting effect, particularly enterolactone.

Prostate Cancer

Prostate tumour growth is hormone sensitive, affected by levels of testosterone and dihydrotestosterone. Ground flax supplementation appeared to inhibit the progression of prostate cancer through increased apoptosis (programmed cell death) and decreased cell proliferation in animal studies. A preliminary clinical study demonstrated the same results in men awaiting surgery for prostate cancer. Test tube studies have shown flax lignans to inhibit the growth of prostate cancer cells.

Test tube studies using prostate cancer cells have thrown up mixed findings related to the effect of ALA and other Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids, however. Some have demonstrated an inhibiting effect and some have stimulated growth.

 

Cardiovascular Risk Factors

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.

 

Depression and other Mood Related Disorders

The brain is 60% fat. This gives us a clue to the significance of essential fatty acids for mental health. It is important for nervous system function that the correct fatty acids are present in the correct ratios.

Depression has been associated by some researchers with deficiency of essential fatty acids and imbalance of Omega-6 to Omega-3 fatty acids.

Researchers have theorised that post-natal depression may also be associated with essential fatty acid depletion in the mother as the foetus has taken the fats it needs from her for its development. It, therefore, makes sense to ensure adequate consumption of essential fatty acids during pregnancy and lactation. See 'Pregnancy'.

Flax seed oil can help to redress fatty acid imbalance because it contains three times as much Omega-3 as Omega-6.

 

Diabetes

Flax has been demonstrated to lower blood glucose in healthy young adults, and may protect against diabetes in a number of ways:

  • Low carbohydrate, high protein so has a stabilising effect on blood sugar levels
  • High fibre so slows down the absorption of glucose in the gut, which also stabilises blood sugar levels
  • Flax fibre also lowers abnormal blood lipids like cholesterol, which often goes hand-in-hand with diabetes
  • Flax lignans have an antioxidant activity, which reduces free radical damage which may be associated with diabetes
  • EFAs have been associated with improved blood sugar control

 

Diabetes

Flax has been demonstrated to lower blood glucose in healthy young adults, and may protect against diabetes in a number of ways:

  • Low carbohydrate, high protein so has a stabilising effect on blood sugar levels
  • High fibre so slows down the absorption of glucose in the gut, which also stabilises blood sugar levels
  • Flax fibre also lowers abnormal blood lipids like cholesterol, which often goes hand-in-hand with diabetes
  • Flax lignans have an antioxidant activity, which reduces free radical damage which may be associated with diabetes
  • EFAs have been associated with improved blood sugar control