Flaxseed contains ω-3 fatty acids, lignans, and fiber that together may provide benefits to patients with cardiovascular disease. Animal work identified that patients with peripheral artery disease may particularly benefit from dietary supplementation with flaxseed. Hypertension is commonly associated with peripheral artery disease. The purpose of the study was to examine the effects of daily ingestion of flaxseed on systolic (SBP) and diastolic blood pressure (DBP) in peripheral artery disease patients. In this prospective, double-blinded, placebo-controlled, randomized trial, patients (110 in total) ingested a variety of foods that contained 30 g of milled flaxseed or placebo each day over 6 months. Plasma levels of the ω-3 fatty acid α-linolenic acid and enterolignans increased 2- to 50-fold in the flaxseed-fed group but did not increase significantly in the placebo group. Patient body weights were not significantly different between the 2 groups at any time. SBP was ≈ 10 mm Hg lower, and DBP was ≈ 7 mm Hg lower in the flaxseed group compared with placebo after 6 months. Patients who entered the trial with a SBP ≥ 140 mm Hg at baseline obtained a significant reduction of 15 mm Hg in SBP and 7 mm Hg in DBP from flaxseed ingestion. The antihypertensive effect was achieved selectively in hypertensive patients. Circulating α-linolenic acid levels correlated with SBP and DBP, and lignan levels correlated with changes in DBP. In summary, flaxseed induced one of the most potent antihypertensive effects achieved by a dietary intervention.
Keywords: alpha linolenic acid; flax; hypertension; myocardial infarction; peripheral arterial disease; polyunsaturated fatty acid; stroke.