Flax Seeds Reduce Cancer Risks: Big Bang For Your Buck

At my local health food grocery store, organically grown flax seeds cost $1.49 per pound. I think flaxseeds provide the BIGGEST benefit per dollar invested of any diet or nutritional product. While there are numerous benefits to consuming freshly ground flax seeds, the benefit I am going to emphasize in this post is their ability to reduce the risks of breast cancer and prostate cancer.

The ability to reduce cancer risks are due to the type and the amount of fiber they contain. Flax seeds contain a type of fiber known as lignans. Once ingested, intestinal bacteria convert lignans into compounds that influence estrogen metabolism. There are three metabolic pathways for estrogen: 2-hydroxyestrone, 4-hydroxyestrone and 16alpha-hydroxyestrone.

Here's why estrogen metabolism is important. Two of the estrogen metabolites (4-hydroxyestrone and 16alpha-hydroxyestrone) are highly carriongenic whereas the 2-hydroxyestrone metabolite is strongly protective against cancer. The miracle of freshly ground flax seeds on a daily basis is that the lignans force estrogen metabolism into the healthy cancer-protective 2-hydroxyestrone pathway.

Foods that contain lignans include whole grains, nuts and seeds, legumes, fruits, and vegetables. However, flax seeds contain the highest lignin content of any food. How much more? Flax seeds contain about 100 times more lignans than other foods. By converting estrogen into protective 2-hydroxyestrone pathway, the lignans in flax seeds provide women with significant protection against estrogen-related cancers including breast, ovarian and endometrial cancers.                

And now, here's the benefit for men. For years the scientific community has thought that prostate cancer was related to testosterone. Now that belief is coming into question. Prostate cancer risk may be in part related to estrogen metabolism. Yes, men make estrogen too, although their levels are significantly lower than those that occur in women. Studies have been published reporting that higher levels of the 2-hydroxyestrone estrogen metabolite relative to 16-alpha-hydroxyestrone reduces the risk of prostate cancer.

So, consuming freshly ground flax seeds daily helps protect both women and men against the risks of developing hormonally related cancers.

Note I've referred to freshly ground flax seeds. Flaxseeds have a very hard seed coat which protects them. Seeds found in ancient tombs are still capable of germinating. If flax seeds are consumed whole, they will pass right through the GI tract without being digested. Also, the omega-3 oils in flax seeds are highly unstable. When exposed to heat, light and/or oxygen, the omega-3 oils will be oxidized and become rancid. Rancid oils are very toxic and should never be consumed. I do not recommend purchasing flax seeds that are already ground and packaged in vacuum-sealed bags. Every time you open the bag to take some out, the contents will get exposed to oxygen. Grind it fresh every time. Also, flax seeds come in two varieties, brown and golden. The nutritional and fiber content is very similar so I do not think one is better than the other. Just DO it.

Here's another benefit. The fiber in flax seeds does wonders for improving digestion and elimination processes. You'll have great poops!

If you don't already have one, I recommend purchasing an inexpensive coffee grinder to grind your flax seeds. They cost about $15 to $20. Each day I grind about 1 to 2 tablespoons of flax seeds. Sometimes I put it in a fruit smoothie, but most often I just put it in a glass with a couple of ounces of water and stir it with a little hand-held battery-operated stirring device.

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