Flaxseeds are a functional food representing, by far, the richest natural grain source of lignans, and accumulate substantial amounts of other health beneficial phenolic compounds (i.e., flavonols, hydroxycinnamic acids). This specific accumulation pattern is related to their numerous beneficial effects on human health. However, to date, little data is available concerning the relative impact of genetic and geographic parameters on the phytochemical yield and composition. Here, the major influence of the cultivar over geographic parameters on the flaxseed phytochemical accumulation yield and composition is evidenced. The importance of genetic parameters on the lignan accumulation was further confirmed by gene expression analysis monitored by RT-qPCR. The corresponding antioxidant activity of these flaxseed extracts was evaluated, both in vitro, using ferric reducing antioxidant power (FRAP), oxygen radical absorbance capacity (ORAC), and iron chelating assays, as well as in vivo, by monitoring the impact of UV-induced oxidative stress on the lipid membrane peroxidation of yeast cells. Our results, both the in vitro and in vivo studies, confirm that flaxseed extracts are an effective protector against oxidative stress. The results point out that secoisolariciresinol diglucoside, caffeic acid glucoside, and p-coumaric acid glucoside are the main contributors to the antioxidant capacity. Considering the health benefits of these compounds, the present study demonstrates that the flaxseed cultivar type could greatly influence the phytochemical intakes and, therefore, the associated biological activities. We recommend that this crucial parameter be considered in epidemiological studies dealing with flaxseeds.
Keywords: cultivar; environment; flavonol; flax; genetic; hydroxycinnamic acid; lignan; seed.