Flax Seed: A Heart-Healthy New Year’s Resolution
February 23, 2008 (PRLEAP.COM) Health NewsDENVER, CO - February 23, 2008 - Those ugly socks from Aunt Edna have long been stashed in the bottom of your bureau, the holiday cookies have been gobbled up and your ambitious New Year's resolution to be healthier continues to stare you straight in the face.
Improving your health isn't an overnight process, but investing in some heart-healthy flax seed could be a great way to make a definite change for the better in 2008.
For a crop dating back thousands of years, flax seed's many benefits have remained largely hidden until recently. Now, a raft of new research is affirming what many have suspected for years: flax seed and its rich supply of omega-3 fatty acid precursors can be particularly good for what ails an increasing percentage of the American population.
"As a major cause of death and disability in the United States, heart disease will continue to affect millions of people and cost billions in medical expenses this year," said John Schutt, president of Great Plains Flax. "Fortunately, more Americans are taking a closer look at their diets and finding that flax seed can be a great way to help them stick to one of the most important New Year's resolutions of all: eating better."
The key to flax seed's heart-protecting properties lies mainly with alpha-linolenic acid, a lipid that accounts for more than half of the seed's total fatty acid content and is a major precursor to omega-3 fatty acids. As noted health advisor Dr. Andrew Weil explains on his popular Web site, optimum health relies on a balance between omega-6 oils (which are now ubiquitous in most fast foods and processed products) and omega-3 oils.
Both types of oil contain essential fatty acids, but have opposite effects on the body. The omega-3 precursors in flax seed, for example, are converted by the body into the building blocks of hormones linked to decreased inflammation, blood clotting and cell growth. Hormones derived from omega-6 fatty acids, on the other hand, seem to increase those functions.
Scientists strongly believe that inflammation is an important factor in the development of coronary heart disease, among other diseases. As more studies support the link between increased alpha-linolenic acid intake and decreased inflammation, flax seed is being increasingly viewed as a major player in helping to protect the lining of heart valves and arteries and in lowering cholesterol.
Pound for pound, in fact, flax seed contains more omega-3 precursors than any other natural source, including walnuts and cold-water fish such as salmon, mackerel and herring.
In one of the most comprehensive reviews to date, researchers at North Dakota State University compiled numerous clinical and epidemiological studies suggesting a beneficial role for flax seed in helping to ward off cardiovascular disease. The 97-page review of flax seed’s properties was published in the 2006 journal Advances in Food and Nutrition Research; Vol 51.
In particular, a 16-year study of 76,000 women and a separate 14-year study of nearly 46,000 men found that diets rich in alpha-linolenic acid (the main fatty acid in flax seed) significantly reduced the risk of coronary heart disease. Other major studies cited by the review concluded that diets similarly high in alpha-linolenic acid lowered the prevalence of plaques in the carotid artery, decreased the risk of death from cardiovascular disease, helped prevent the reoccurrence of a second heart attack among patients recovering from their first, and lowered the risk of death due to stroke.
Schutt, owner of the website www.greatplainsflax.com, said more Americans are starting to make the connection, and sales of flax seed are rising as studies continue to affirm its benefits as part of a healthy diet. Among the many letters he's received are testimonials from customers whose cholesterol levels dropped significantly after using flax seed as a daily supplement. In addition, flax seed contains insoluble fiber that can help detoxify the body and lignans, natural compounds that are being investigated for their potential role in protecting the body from diabetes and certain kinds of cancer.
Once flax seeds are ground or pressed, the seeds and their derivative oil can quickly go bad and the rich omega-3 fatty acids will soon break down and lose their potency. An easy solution, according to Schutt, is to grind just enough seeds for daily use and store the rest in an air-tight container in your freezer, ensuring that the seeds' essential oils remain intact.
Among the many ways that people take their supplements, some add a daily tablespoon of ground flax seed to oatmeal, cereal, salads, smoothies or yogurt. And unlike those soon-to-be-forgotten socks, adding flax seed to a healthy diet could be the gift to yourself or a loved one that will be remembered well into the New Year and beyond.
About Great Plains Flax:
GreatPlainsFlax.com is a leading retailer of American-grown golden omega flax seed, a variant of flax seed celebrated for its nutty flavor and high omega-3 fatty acid content. Through its Web site, (www.greatplainsflax.com), GreatPlainsFlax.com sells golden omega flax seed that is more than 99.99% pure and certified by the State of North Dakota - among the highest-quality golden flax seed available on the Internet. For more information on the health benefits of flax seed and how to buy some of your own, please visit www.greatplainsflax.com or call us at toll free at 1-866-834-7485.