It has been called one of the most powerful – if not THE most powerful – foods in the world because it has shown to fight breast cancer, diabetes and heart disease. For something so tiny, those are quite the achievements.
Cultivated in Babylon in 3000 BC, the benefits of flax seed has been sung for thousands of years including the great conqueror Charlemagne. The king believed in it so greatly that he required its consumption by his subjects – there were laws!
Today, flax seed is in almost everything from crackers to oatmeal. According to the Flax Council, nearly 300 new flax-based products were launched in 2010 – and these were in the US and Canada alone. Not only has flax seed made a dent in the consumer market, it has done wonders for the agricultural industry too as it’s used to feed chickens who then lay eggs with higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids.
But given many of its health beneficial properties, are there any risks associated with the consumption of flax seed? Here’s a look at the pros and cons:
List of Pros of Flax Seeds
1. It has a protective effect against certain cancers.
Some studies have shown that flax seed is effective against breast cancer, prostate cancer and colon cancer. The plant omega-3 fatty acid called ALA has shown to inhibit tumor incidence and growth in animal studies. Lignans in flax seed has been shown to offer protection against hormone-sensitive cancers without interfering with tamoxifen, a breast cancer drug.
2. It helps with cardiovascular disease.
Plant omega-3s are able to help the cardiovascular system through anti-inflammatory action and being able to normalize the heartbeat. Research has also shown flax seed to lower blood pressure significantly.
3. It improves blood sugar.
Research shows that the lignans in flax seed can improve blood sugar, especially if taken daily. This is particularly helpful for those with diabetes.
List of Cons of Flax Seeds
1. It isn’t recommended for pregnant woman and those who are breastfeeding.
Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding shouldn’t supplement their diet with ground flax seed because research still isn’t clear on their benefits and risks. In one study in animals, exposure to flax seed was shown to be protective against breast cancer in the offspring. However, another study shows the complete opposite
2. It has a laxative effect.
The US National Institutes of Health have noted the laxative properties of flax seed. As such, its consumption can lead to abdominal discomfort as well as increased number of bowel movements and diarrhea. Because of this, those with diarrhea, irritable bowel syndrome and inflammatory bowel disease should best stay away from flax seed.
3. It may cause obstruction in the digestive tract.
When taken without enough liquid, flax seed may obstruct the esophagus, intestines or bowel – especially if taken in large doses. Those who already have a narrowing or obstruction in these areas should refrain from consuming flax seed.
While there are clear benefits to consuming flax seed, it is not for everybody. As such, caution should be exercised when dealing with it.
Natalie Regoli, Esq. is the author of this post and the editor-in-chief of our blog. She received her B.A. in Economics from the University of Washington and her Masters in Law from The University of Texas School of Law. In addition to being a seasoned writer, Natalie has almost two decades of experience as a lawyer and banker. If you would like to reach out to contact Natalie, then go here to send her a message.