Dietary lignans: physiology and potential for cardiovascular disease risk reduction

Nutr Rev. 2010 Oct;68(10):571-603. doi: 10.1111/j.1753-4887.2010.00319.x.


The present review of the literature on lignan physiology and lignan intervention and epidemiological studies was conducted to determine if lignans decrease the risks of cardiovascular disease in Western populations. Five intervention studies using flaxseed lignan supplements indicated beneficial associations with C-reactive protein, and a meta-analysis that included these studies also suggested lignans have a lowering effect on plasma total and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol. Three intervention studies using sesamin supplements indicated possible lipid- and blood pressure-lowering associations. Eleven human observational epidemiological studies examined dietary intakes of lignans in relation to cardiovascular disease risk. Five showed decreased risk with either increasing dietary intakes of lignans or increased levels of serum enterolactone (an enterolignan used as a biomarker of lignan intake), five studies were of borderline significance, and one was null. The associations between lignans and decreased risk of cardiovascular disease are promising, but they are yet not well established, perhaps due to low lignan intakes in habitual Western diets. At the higher doses used in intervention studies, associations were more evident.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cardiovascular Diseases / epidemiology*
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / prevention & control*
  • Evidence-Based Medicine
  • Flax / chemistry*
  • Humans
  • Lignans / administration & dosage*
  • Lignans / chemistry
  • Lignans / pharmacology
  • Risk Assessment
  • Risk Factors


  • Lignans