I know I don’t talk about flaxseed supplements, or even flaxseed oil, all that much, but it is proving to have benefits beyond why most people take flax. So it’s time I revisit the topic …because, as you know, I’m always excited to learn something new, and then pass that knowledge directly on to you.
First, a little background on flaxseed oil: It’s frequently taken by vegetarians to provide them with sufficient omega-3 fatty acids. Some also take it because they have concerns about mercury levels in fish oil supplements (though if you’re taking a high-quality fish oil, that shouldn’t be a concern.)
Fish oil is comprised mostly of EPA and DHA–essential fatty acids I’ve sung the praises of many times. Flaxseed oil, on the other hand, is all ALA (alpha-linoleic acid) and must be converted to EPA and DHA to have the same effect in the body. Obviously, this isn’t as efficient as just taking fish oil in the first place, so it’s made me a little wishy-washy on flaxseed in the past.
But a recent new analysis of several studies using flaxseed supplements shows flaxseed may have benefits beyond just providing a source of essential fatty acids. Flaxseed supplements were linked to improvements in blood pressure. But not just any flaxseed oil will do.
Researchers looked at the average results of over 1,000 participants across multiple studies. And they found clinically-significant reductions in both systolic (the top number) and diastolic (the bottom number) readings. The average drop in systolic pressure was 2.85mm Hg, and the average drop in diastolic pressure was 2.39mm Hg.
While those numbers may seem relatively small, if you recall, I have written about how a little drop goes a long way in this situation. This small drop in blood pressure, if sustained, is associated with a 22 percent reduction in the patient’s relative risk of cardiovascular mortality.
The scientists also report that supplementation for longer than 12 weeks resulted in even greater reductions in systolic and diastolic blood pressure (3.10 mmHg and 2.62 mmHg, respectively).
Researchers don’t quite understand biologically why flaxseed is so effective, but there are a few potential ways.
First, this success in combating blood pressure could be linked to a compound it contains called SDG (secoisolariciresinol diglucoside), which is known to improve blood flow and blood pressure.
In addition, flaxseed’s ALA content, which I mentioned at the beginning of this piece, may also contribute to the potential benefits. That’s because ALA can help blood vessels function properly, and combat arterial inflammation.
Lastly, a protein fraction in flaxseed, called “ KCl-F1,” may also impact blood pressure, as it contains arginine, which encourages healthy blood flow.
So, we’ve got three potential ways that flaxseeds can play a role in blood pressure. And what is interesting in this review is that flaxseeds were administered in different ways. For example, flaxseed powder supplements were found to affect systolic blood pressure (SBP) and diastolic blood pressure (DBP), whereas flaxseed oil preparations only affected DBP.
So while some may still prefer flaxseed oil over fish oil, the results of this analysis indicate the benefits of flaxseed powder supplements specifically for blood pressure.
This study further goes to show that nutritional supplementation has a role in blood pressure management equal to or greater than many blood pressure medications, without the potentially deadly side effects. Fancy that.
Of course, more work is needed to figure this all out. But I see enough here to recommend adding flaxseed powder supplements to your life, especially if you have high blood pressure. Then go ahead and continue to take fish oil, and cook with the macadamia nut oil I always recommend to ensure you’re getting all the added benefits of a full range of heart-healthy oils.
For additional natural ways to lower your blood pressure, without resorting to side-effect-laden meds that big pharma will be more than happy to sell you on… Check out my past Reality Health Check article “The silent killer you may not be taking seriously.” At the end of the article, I list a bunch of natural supplements that will lay the foundation for healthy blood pressure.
“Effects of flaxseed supplements on blood pressure: A systematic review and meta-analysis of controlled clinical trial.” Clinical Nutrition, published online ahead of print.