Flaxseed and Gut Health: A New Frontier in Breast Cancer Prevention

Exploring the transformative role of flaxseed in gut health for reducing breast cancer risk.

Could a small addition to your smoothie hold a key to preventing breast cancer? Recent research unveils flaxseed’s unexpected role in altering gut microbiota, potentially lowering breast cancer risk and presenting a novel dietary strategy against this widespread disease.

Study Insights: Flaxseed and Cancer Risk

The study published in Microbiology Spectrum examines the relationship between the gut’s microbiota—the trillions of microorganisms living in our intestines—and microRNAs (miRNAs) in the mammary gland. These miRNAs are crucial in controlling genes associated with breast cancer development.

Using young female mice, investigators examined the effects of lignans on the body. Lignans, natural fiber compounds found in flaxseed, have been associated with a reduced risk of breast cancer.

The findings revealed that flaxseed, through its unique compounds, works with gut bacteria to produce substances that can help prevent breast cancer. It particularly affects certain genetic elements in the mammary gland that are crucial in cancer prevention.

“Flaxseed is a source of lignan secoisolariciresinol diglucoside (SDG) and alpha-linolenic acid (ALA)-rich oil, both with antitumor effects,” the researchers told The Epoch Times. The research underscores that eating whole flaxseed is crucial for reaping its full health benefits. This finding stems from the observation that neither flaxseed oil nor the compound SDG alone can deliver the same effects as the entire flaxseed.

Previous research has demonstrated that flaxseed can slow breast cancer cell growth and possibly boost the efficacy of treatments such as tamoxifen. These findings are especially encouraging for postmenopausal women, suggesting flaxseed’s potential in curbing breast cancer progression and risk.
“If these findings are confirmed, the microbiota becomes a new target to prevent breast cancer through dietary intervention,” Elena M. Comelli, from the University of Toronto and the corresponding author of the paper, said in a press release.

Flaxseed: Nature’s Superfood Explained

Flaxseed, often hailed as a “superfood,” has gained attention among health enthusiasts and the scientific community.

The Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center reports that flaxseed is utilized for various health benefits, including:

  • Preventing breast, prostate, and colon cancer.
  • Regulating blood sugar in Type-2 diabetes.
  • Reducing high cholesterol.
  • Alleviating menopausal symptoms.
  • Treating constipation.

Flaxseed is abundant in omega-3 fatty acids, primarily in the form of alpha-linolenic acid, known for its anti-inflammatory effects. Reducing inflammation is crucial, as it plays a significant role in the development and progression of various diseases, including cancer.

In addition to ALA, flaxseed is a prime source of lignans. These potent natural antioxidants are found in amounts up to 800 times greater in flaxseed than in other plants. Lignans serve a dual purpose—they combat free radicals, thereby slowing aging and promoting health, and function as phytoestrogens, mimicking estrogen hormones, particularly relevant for women’s health.
Ongoing studies highlight the potential of lignans in managing menopausal symptoms, such as hot flashes and sleep disturbances, and decreasing the risk of hormone-sensitive cancers like breast, prostate, and endometrial cancer.
The Susan G. Komen Foundation advises caution: “Because flaxseed might act somewhat like the hormone estrogen, it might make hormone-sensitive conditions worse. Some of these conditions include breast and ovarian cancer. Until more is known, avoid taking large amounts of flaxseed if you have one of these conditions.”
The Oncology Nutrition Dietetic Practice Group notes that current studies have revealed promising effects of flaxseed, especially concerning estrogen receptor-positive (ER+) breast cancer. Flaxseed has been shown to effectively reduce ER+ breast cancer cell growth and spread.

They caution that flaxseed should be consumed as part of the diet, not as a supplement, and recommend eating moderate quantities of two to three tablespoons of ground flaxseed daily.

Ms. Comelli told The Epoch Times, “Clinical studies have shown that breast tumor growth in breast cancer patients is slowed down by the daily intake of 25 g flaxseed which contains 50 mg SDG. In premenopausal women with a high risk of breast cancer, the daily intake of 50 mg SDG for one year caused many biomarker changes in the breast suggesting reduced risk of developing breast cancer by 50%. All these suggest that intake of lignan-rich foods such as flaxseed—about one tablespoon a day—may provide some protection against breast cancer.”

Flaxseed is an excellent source of dietary fiber, which is associated with a reduced risk of chronic diseases, including some cancers. Fiber is vital for a healthy digestive system, robust immune function, and general health.

Flaxseed’s dietary versatility sets it apart. It can be easily added to a range of recipes—from smoothies to baked goods—offering an effortless method to enhance nutritional intake.

The Mayo Clinic recommends using ground over whole flaxseed for better digestibility, ensuring full absorption of its benefits. Whole seeds may pass through the digestive system without yielding their full potential.
While flaxseeds have been proven safe for most people, a small number have reported allergic reactions, increased gastrointestinal issues, and intestinal blockages when over-consumed.

Future Implications: Diet and Cancer Prevention

The research on flaxseed’s potential to mitigate breast cancer risk signifies a breakthrough in dietary strategies for disease prevention. It adds to the mounting evidence of a substantial connection between our diet and overall health—especially regarding cancer prevention.

The implications of this research are significant. Jennifer Auchtung, assistant professor at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln, stated in the news release, “The gastrointestinal microbiota significantly alters various dietary components, affecting human health.” As research delves into the diet-health nexus, it underscores preventive health care’s focus on dietary choices as essential as medical interventions.

The study paves the way for more tailored dietary guidelines. Its aim extends beyond treating diseases to preventing them—particularly cancers—through nutrient-rich natural foods. This resonates with the increasing public inclination towards holistic health, potentially reshaping our understanding of diet and health.

Important Notice: This article was originally published at www.theepochtimes.com by Sheramy Tsai where all credits are due.


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