Why Flaxseed Oil Is Important for Women
While it can provide an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids for everyone, there are reasons why flaxseed oil is more important for women, especially a popular new kind known as high lignan flaxseed oil.
Flaxseed Oil, Lignans and Estrogens
Lignans are phytoestrogens and are present in many seeds, grains and vegetables, but flax is the richest dietary source. They are metabolized in the digestive tract into enterolactone and enterodiol. These compounds are structurally similar but a lot less potent than estradiol, the most common form of estrogen in women’s bodies.
Excess estradiol has been strongly associated with hormonal cancers like breast cancer and cancers of the reproductive system. These are some of the most commonly occurring cancers to affect women in America, particularly postmenopausal women.
The lignans in flax seeds exert a much weaker estrogenic effect on receptor cells than estradiol. When they arrive at receptor cells before other estrogens, they block them from having potentially negative effects on breast, uterine or cervical tissue. In this sense, lignans are generally considered anti-estrogenic.
Not all flaxseed oil contains useful levels of lignans. If you’re interested in getting the anti-estrogenic effects, along with the plentiful omega-3 fatty acids, then it is important to look for high lignan flaxseed oil with fine flax particles added back into the oil.
Ground flax seeds are an even better source of lignans, but ideally they would be from fresh organic seeds and be produced with cold milling. Flax meal should come in an airtight packet, be refrigerated and, once opened, used relatively quickly to preserve the freshness. It is great in muesli in the morning or added to smoothies and shakes.
Hormonal Cancers and Flax Oil
Like flax seeds, high lignan flax oil may provide some protection against hormonal cancers such as breast cancer and endometrial, ovarian and cervical cancer, by diminishing the action of the strong estrogen estradiol.
This is particularly relevant for postmenopausal women, who are also most likely to be diagnosed with these types of cancers. While it must be said that scientific research on the effects of lignans on various cancers has been mixed, recent studies, such as this one on postmenopausal breast cancer, show significant potential.
It’s likely there are far too many factors that contribute to hormonal cancers like breast cancer for results to be conclusive. That said, high lignan flaxseed oil is a very nutritious superfood, both for its exceptional omega-3 content and its anti-estrogenic lignans.
Estradiol, Men and Flax Oil
The estrogen estradiol can also play havoc in men’s bodies. While many men fear having anything in their diet associated with estrogen, phytoestrogens are actually more likely to compete with estradiol at the receptor sites in the body than have estrogenic effects themselves.
Men have fewer of these receptor sites and the effects of phytoestrogens like lignans are significantly weaker than more potent forms of estrogen like estradiol.
As men get older their testosterone levels generally decreases, while at the same time estrogen production increases. Even mildly elevated levels of estrogen are believed to increase a man’s risk for heart disease, stroke, prostate cancer, osteoporosis and other serious diseases.
Having flaxseed oil with added lignans or delicious ground flax seeds like these in the diet regularly may help reduce some of the damaging effects of estradiol experienced by many older men and women.