Background: Several clinical trials have investigated the effects of flaxseed and flaxseed-derived products (flaxseed oil or lignans) on blood lipids; however, the findings have been inconsistent.
Objective: We aimed to identify and quantify the effectiveness of flaxseed and its derivatives on blood lipid profiles.
Design: A comprehensive literature search was performed on the basis of English reports of randomized controlled trials of flaxseed or its derivatives on lipid profiles in adults, which were published from January 1990 to October 2008. Attempts also were made to access unpublished data. Study quality was assessed by using the Jadad score, and a meta-analysis was conducted.
Results: Twenty-eight studies were included. Flaxseed interventions reduced total and LDL cholesterol by 0.10 mmol/L (95% CI: -0.20, 0.00 mmol/L) and 0.08 mmol/L (95% CI: -0.16, 0.00 mmol/L), respectively; significant reductions were observed with whole flaxseed (-0.21 and -0.16 mmol/L, respectively) and lignan (-0.28 and -0.16 mmol/L, respectively) supplements but not with flaxseed oil. The cholesterol-lowering effects were more apparent in females (particularly postmenopausal women), individuals with high initial cholesterol concentrations, and studies with higher Jadad scores. No significant changes were found in the concentrations of HDL cholesterol and triglycerides.
Conclusions: Flaxseed significantly reduced circulating total and LDL-cholesterol concentrations, but the changes were dependent on the type of intervention, sex, and initial lipid profiles of the subjects. Further studies are needed to determine the efficiency of flaxseed on lipid profiles in men and premenopausal women and to explore its potential benefits on other cardiometabolic risk factors and prevention of cardiovascular disease.