If you’ve been following our blog, then you’ll know that we absolutely love flaxseed. We include it in everything… our breakfast oats, smoothies, baking and the likes. Our two dogs even have a tablespoon of flaxseed everyday with their meals!
The reason why we love flaxseed so much is because of its amazing health benefits. Studies have shown that it is anti-inflammatory, lowers cholesterol, improves blood sugar levels and forms part of a sustainable weight management plan. Not to mention the nutty taste and versatility of the plant food… flax egg is the best creation ever!
We’re excited to share with you another one of flaxseed’s wonderful health benefits, one that can possibly help more than 100 million people in America and prevent many more from joining that growing number.
High Blood Pressure
Nearly half of adults in the United States have high blood pressure. It’s a worrying figure because high blood pressure, although silent and usually doesn’t cause any symptoms, contributes to illnesses such as heart attacks, strokes, dementia and blindness.
What is even more worrying is that only 1 in 4 adults with hypertension have the condition under control. The treatment is usually in the form of anti-hypertensive drugs and doctors often ask patients to complement it with lots of exercise and healthy eating. While that’s reasonable advice, it’s often vague and many people don’t like taking a pill for a condition they can’t visually appreciate.
Luckily, we’ve got flaxseed on our side!
Drop the Pressure with Flaxseed
A 2015 systematic review and meta-analysis pooled together lots of studies that looked at blood pressure and flaxseed consumption. They concluded that eating flaxseeds can reduce high blood pressure.
More specifically, it could reduce systolic blood pressure (the top number) by 1.77 mmHg and diastolic blood pressure (the bottom number) by 1.16 mmHg.
Although these numbers may look small, in context, even a 2 mmHg reduction in systolic blood pressure can lower the risk of dying from a stroke and heart disease by 10% and 7% respectively.
The paper also suggested that the reduction in blood pressure was more pronounced in those who ate flaxseed for 12 weeks or more. The authors also recommended flaxseed consumption in the form of whole or ground seeds rather than oil.
Blinded to the Flax
A group of researchers managed to pull off a very well-designed study (prospective, double-blinded, placebo-controlled, randomised trial) to observe the effect of flaxseed on patients who were previously diagnosed with high blood pressure.
They recruited 110 patients and fed them a variety of flaxseed-infused foods – bagels, muffins, bars, buns, pasta and tea biscuits. Each contained 30g of milled flaxseed or milled wheat (placebo). The participants were split into two groups (flax or placebo) and were fed 1 of these food products per day over a 6 month period.
The reason why the study was so cleverly designed was because it was a double-blinded study. This meant both the researchers and the patients were ‘blinded’ to what they what they were given. They didn’t know whether it was a flaxseed muffin or a placebo (wheat) muffin. The researchers went to great lengths to ensure that the taste, flavour, texture and appearance of either food products were similar.
We appreciate a double-blinded study in the research world because it prevents the researchers and the participants from becoming influenced or biased if they knew which treatment they were receiving. Usually when dealing with food, it’s hard to prevent this from happening since participants can obviously see and taste what you’re giving them (for example, apple juice).
Over the course of 6 months, the results were as follow:
- Flaxseed group: Average starting blood pressure was 143/77. After 6 months, blood pressure was 136/72.
- Placebo group: Average starting blood pressure was 142/79. After 6 months, blood pressure was 146/79.
The blood pressure for the flax group dropped significantly with a 7 mmHg and 5 mmHg decrease in systolic and diastolic pressure respectively. Again, this may not seem like a high number but a 7 mmHg drop in diastolic blood pressure can reduce the risk of stroke and coronary heart disease by 46% and 29%.
On the other hand, the placebo group maintained and slightly increased their blood pressure over the 6 months.
Perhaps the most interesting thing about this study was that most of the participants were already on anti-hypertensive medications when the trial started. Flaxseed was able to decrease blood pressure even in the presence of drugs that were already trying to do the same thing. The authors suggested that flaxseed may serve as a complementary non-medicinal option.
Flaxseed is even more beneficial for those who are severely hypertensive. A subset of patients started the trial with a blood pressure greater than 140/81 mmHg. After 6 months of flaxseed, they dropped an average of 15 mmHg and 7 mmHg in systolic and diastolic blood pressure respectively which is comparable to many anti-hypertensive drugs.
That being said, consuming flaxseed is associated with minimal, if any, adverse effects. High doses of flaxseed per day (up to 50g/day) have been given to patients without any complications.
Get Flaxed to the Max
The effect of flaxseed on dropping blood pressure was so significant that they even coined the seeds as ‘potent’.
Just a side note, if you don’t have high blood pressure, don’t worry! You can still enjoy flaxseeds and their benefits because the blood pressure lowering effect does not occur in those without high blood pressure (thankfully, because that could be dangerous!).
As mentioned earlier, we love flaxseed because it has many wonderful health benefits backed up by lots of good quality evidence. One of our dogs suffer from hip dysplasia and we were recommended by our vet to feed her flaxseeds due to its anti-inflammatory properties.
Here are some of the ways we like to include flaxseed into our diets:
- Mixing flax in with cereal or oatmeal at breakfast
- Topping fruit and yoghurt with flaxseed
- Sprinkling flax on top of toast with a spread (like peanut/almond, hazelnut)
- Mixing it in with our smoothies
- Combining it with other ingredients to make bliss balls
- Ground flaxseeds are perfect to thicken up salad dressings or even just sprinkling it over a salad is yummy!
- Using flax egg as a baking substitute for normal egg
- Eating flaxseeds can reduce high blood pressure
- Consistent consumption for 12 weeks or more provides greater effect
- Ground flaxseed is better than oil form
- Flaxseed reduces blood pressure even when patients were already taking anti-hypertensive medications
- Flaxseeds have little to no side effects at all
Read more about flaxseed and:
Read more about blood pressure:
Keep in Mind
At Embody Nourish, we believe that a whole-foods plant-based and holistic lifestyle is the best way to nourish the body and mind. We also focus on exercise, mindfulness and the practice of kindness to have a balanced lifestyle. All of these combined can help us achieve our health and wellness goals. Keep in mind that adding or excluding specific foods may help us achieve our goals sooner but they should not be the sole focus of our approach.
- Brunström M, Carlberg B. Association of Blood Pressure Lowering With Mortality and Cardiovascular Disease Across Blood Pressure Levels: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis. JAMA Intern Med. 2018;178(1):28-36. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2017.6015
- Khalesi S, Irwin C, Schubert M. Flaxseed consumption may reduce blood pressure: a systematic review and meta-analysis of controlled trials [published correction appears in J Nutr. 2015 Nov;145(11):2633]. J Nutr. 2015;145(4):758-765. doi:10.3945/jn.114.205302
- Leyva DR, Zahradka P, Ramjiawan B, Guzman R, Aliani M, Pierce GN. The effect of dietary flaxseed on improving symptoms of cardiovascular disease in patients with peripheral artery disease: rationale and design of the FLAX-PAD randomized controlled trial. Contemp Clin Trials. 2011;32(5):724-730. doi:10.1016/j.cct.2011.05.005
- Rodriguez-Leyva D, Weighell W, Edel AL, et al. Potent antihypertensive action of dietary flaxseed in hypertensive patients. Hypertension. 2013;62(6):1081-1089. doi:10.1161/HYPERTENSIONAHA.113.02094
- Blood Pressure Lowering Treatment Trialists’ Collaboration, Ninomiya T, Perkovic V, et al. Blood pressure lowering and major cardiovascular events in people with and without chronic kidney disease: meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials. BMJ. 2013;347:f5680. Published 2013 Oct 3. doi:10.1136/bmj.f5680