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Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome and Flaxseed

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Flaxseed oil is derived from the hard, tiny seeds of the flax plant. It has been proposed as a less smelly alternative to fish oil. Like fish oil, flaxseed oil contains omega-3 fatty acids, a type of fat your body needs as much as it needs vitamins.

Whole flaxseeds contain another important group of chemicals known as lignans.

Effect of Flaxseed on Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome

Like fish oil (which is also prescribed at times for polycystic ovarian syndrome) flaxseed (and flaxseed oil) are rich in omega-3s; an essential fatty acid. Supplementing omega-3sis thought to be a treatment for many conditions.

Read more details about Flaxseed.

Safety Issues

Flaxseed is generally believed to be safe. However, there are some potential risks to consider.

As with many substances, there have been reports of life-threatening allergic reactions to flaxseed.

Because of its potential effects on estrogen, pregnant or breastfeeding women should probably avoid flaxseed. One study found that pregnant rats who ate large amounts of flaxseed (5% or 10% of their diet), or one of its lignans, gave birth to offspring with altered reproductive organs and functions 1 —in humans, eating 25 g of flaxseed per day amounts to about 5% of the diet. 2 Lignans were also found to be transferred to baby rats during nursing. 3 Additionally, a study of postmenopausal women found that use of flaxseed reduced estrogen levels and increased levels of prolactin. 4 This suggests hormonal effects that could be problematic in pregnancy.

Flaxseed may not be safe for women with a history of estrogen-sensitive cancer, such as breast or uterine cancer. A few test tube studies suggest that certain cancer cells can be stimulated by lignans such as those present in flaxseed. 5 Other studies found that lignans inhibit cancer cell growth. 6 As with estrogen, lignans' positive or negative effects on cancer cells may depend on dose, type of cancer cell, and levels of hormones in the body. If you have a history of cancer, particularly breast cancer, talk with your doctor before consuming large amounts of flaxseeds.

If you have diabetes , flaxseed (like other high-fiber foods) may delay glucose absorption. 7 This may lead to better blood sugar control but it also may increase the risk of hypoglycemic reactions. Talk with your doctor about appropriate use.

Finally, flaxseeds contain tiny amounts of cyanide-containing substances, which can be a problem among livestock eating large amounts of flax. 8 While normal cooking and baking of whole flaxseeds or flour eliminates any detectable amounts of cyanide, 9 it is at least theoretically possible that eating huge amounts of raw or unprocessed flaxseeds or flaxseed meal could pose a problem. However, most authorities do not think this presents much of a risk in real life. 10

References

  1. Tou JCL, Chen J, Thompson LU. Flaxseed and its lignan precursor, secoisolariciresinol diglycoside, affect pregnancy outcome and reproductive development in rats. J Nutr. 1998;128:1861-1868.
  2. Thompson LU. Experimental studies on lignans and cancer. Baillieres Clin Endocrinol Metab. 12(4):691-705.
  3. Tou JCL, Chen J, Thompson LU. Flaxseed and its lignan precursor, secoisolariciresinol diglycoside, affect pregnancy outcome and reproductive development in rats. J Nutr. 1998;128:1861-1868.
  4. Hutchins AM, Martini MC, Olson BA, Thomas W, Slavin JL. Flaxseed consumption influences endogenous hormone concentrations in postmenopausal women. Nutr Cancer. 39(1):58-65.
  5. Adlercreutz H, Mazur W. Phyto-oestrogens and Western diseases. Ann Med. 29(2):95-120.
  6. Adlercreutz H, Mazur W. Phyto-oestrogens and Western diseases. Ann Med. 29(2):95-120.
  7. Fascicule 1. Lini semen, linseed. In: European Scientific Cooperative on Phytotherapy. Monographs on the medicinal uses of plant drugs. Dusseldorf, Germany: IDW-Verlag. 1997:1-5.
  8. Wanasundara PK, Shahidi F. Process-induced compositional changes of flaxseed. Adv Exp Med Biol. 434():307-25.
  9. Wanasundara PK, Shahidi F. Process-induced compositional changes of flaxseed. Adv Exp Med Biol. 434():307-25.
  10. Fascicule 1. Lini semen, linseed. In: European Scientific Cooperative on Phytotherapy. Monographs on the medicinal uses of plant drugs. Dusseldorf, Germany: IDW-Verlag. 1997:1-5.

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