Lignan content of the flaxseed influences its biological effects in healthy men and women

J Am Coll Nutr. 2013;32(3):194-9. doi: 10.1080/07315724.2013.791147.


Objective: The omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid (n-3 PUFA) as well as lignan components of flaxseed (FLX) can have beneficial effects. In this 6-week-long, randomized, double-blinded, placebo-controlled study, we investigated the effects of FLX lignans on cardiovascular risk factors.

Methods: Thirty-seven subjects (13 men and 24 women, age: 54±7 years, body mass index [BMI]: 29.7±1 kg/m2) consumed nutrition bars with similar macronutrient contents. The fatty acid composition and the lignan contents of the bars differed significantly. Two FLX bars both contained 3.0 g of alpha linolenic acid (ALA: 18:3 n-3) but different amount of lignans (0.15 g vs. 0.41 g).

Results: High-lignan FLX decreased total cholesterol (C) by 12% (p=0.044), LDL-C by 15% (p=0.022), and oxidized (Ox)-LDL by 25% (p=0.035). Regular FLX tended to increase Ox-LDL by 13% (p=0.051). The difference between the effects of high-lignan vs. regular lignan FLX on Ox-LDL was highly significant (p=0.004).

Conclusion: High-lignan FLX has the unique property of decreasing Ox-LDL, which is an independent risk factor for cardiovascular disease.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Body Mass Index
  • Body Weight
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / blood
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / prevention & control
  • Cholesterol, LDL / blood
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Fatty Acid-Binding Proteins / blood
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3 / administration & dosage
  • Female
  • Flax / chemistry*
  • Humans
  • Lignans / administration & dosage*
  • Lignans / chemistry*
  • Lipoproteins, LDL / blood
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Risk Factors
  • Soybean Oil / administration & dosage
  • Triglycerides / blood
  • alpha-Linolenic Acid / administration & dosage


  • Cholesterol, LDL
  • FABP4 protein, human
  • Fatty Acid-Binding Proteins
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3
  • Lignans
  • Lipoproteins, LDL
  • Triglycerides
  • oxidized low density lipoprotein
  • alpha-Linolenic Acid
  • Soybean Oil