Recent studies and results
In a study published in the journal Food and Chemical Toxicology researchers noted that flax seed oil and flax seed meal are good sources of omega-3 fatty acids. Their objective was to investigate the feeding of flax seed oil and flax meal to groups of rats with induced precursors of colon cancer. These precursors form in the lining of the colon and rectum prior to the appearance of colorectal polyps.
The groups of rats were fed either a controlled diet alone, controlled diet plus soybean oil, controlled diet plus flax oil, or controlled diet plus flax meal. The rats were examined after 17 weeks. Those fed the flax seed oil and the flax seed meal showed reduced incidence of colon cancer precursor by 84% and 87.5% respectively. Glutathione-S-transferase (GST) activity rates were significantly higher in the rats fed flax seed oil and flax seed meal compared to those fed soybean oil. The enzymes in GST play a significant role in the detoxification of such substances as carcinogens, therapeutic drugs, and products of oxidative stress.
In the Journal of Nutrition and Cancer researchers note that fatty acid composition of dietary fat plays a vital role in colon tumor development in animal models. Fats containing omega-3 fatty acids, such as flax oil, and those containing omega-6 fats, such as corn oil, reduced chemically induced colon tumor development in rats. Lignans have also been shown to prevent colon tumor development in animal studies. These researchers investigated the effects of dietary flaxseed meal, a source of both omega-3 fatty acids and lignans, on colon tumor development and compared them with the effects of dietary corn meal.
One group of cancer induced rats ate a controlled diet supplemented with corn meal, while another ate the controlled diet supplemented with flaxseed meal. After 35 weeks, the gastrointestinal tract was isolated, and the site, size, and number of tumors were recorded and the tumors were evaluated. Tumor incidence in the corn meal group was 82.6% vs. 29.4% in the flax meal group. Tumor multiplicity was 1.3 for the corn meal group vs. 0.3 for the flax meal group. And tumor size was 44.4 mm for the corn meal group vs. 5.3 mm for the flax meal group. Researchers attributed these amazing statistics to the increased omega-3 fatty acids levels ingested by the flax meal group.
A third study, from the International Journal of Cancer reports that previous studies have shown dietary flax seed was able to reduce the growth and metastasis of human estrogen receptor negative breast cancer in mice. Researchers for this study sought to determine whether the tumor inhibitory effect of flaxseed was due to its oil, lignan secoisolariciresinol diglycoside (SDG), or both, and whether the effect on tumor growth was related to increased oxidative degradation of lipids.
Rats were injected with estrogen receptor negative breast cancer cells and after 8 weeks were fed either the basal diet, or basal diet supplemented with flax seeds, SDG, flax oil, or a combination.
Compared to the basal diet group, the tumors in all supplemented groups showed decreased cell proliferation and increased apoptosis. These results did not significantly relate to lipid peroxidation. Lung metastasis incidence was reduced by 16 to 70 percent by all treatments, and most significantly in the flax seed, SDG, and flax oil groups. Distant lymph node metastasis was significantly decreased (52%) only in the flax oil group. Total metastasis incidence was lowered significantly (42%) only in the SDG plus flax oil group.
What these studies may mean for you
The studies show both flax oil and flax meal to be highly effective against cancers of the gastrointestinal tract and colon. Flax oil was clearly the most effective at preventing lymph node metastasis, while the impact on total body metastasis was greatest when SDG, the active compound from lignans, was included with flax oil.
It is the omega-3 fatty acids in flax that are the active agents producing these results. Omega-3 fatty acids are electron rich, and are able to enter the cells to provide them with the electrical energy needed for the healthy completion of cellular processes.
Our bodies produce over 500 million new cells daily. When these cells divide, the old cell and the new cell must contain enough electron rich fatty acids to divide off completely from each other. When this process is not completed due to a lack of electron rich highly unsaturated fat, the course of growth and division is altered and the maturing and shedding process is never fully completed. This may lead to the formation of tumors.
Unless you frequently eat omega-3 rich foods such as salmon or walnuts, supplementing your diet with lignan rich flax oil may be one of the best choices for your health that you ever make.
Using flax oilFlax oil is highly unstable and begins to oxidize quickly after processing. If you are going to use flax oil, you will want only the freshest, best quality organic oil. Fresh flax oil has a nutty taste that is good. Although results from study number three indicate that even when the oil has oxidized it will still do its job in the body, most health experts say that any oil that does not taste good is oil you should not use. Any trace of bitterness means the oil is oxidizing.
Most flax oil on the market is rancid to some degree, particularly the capsules. Taste one and you will be appalled. The maker of the capsules is counting on you swallowing them whole and never tasting the rancid oil that is in them. Oil that is bought from a drugstore, supermarket, or discount center is usually quite oxidized and bitter. Even house brands from online supplement stores are usually oxidized. Just because it's organic doesn't mean it isn't rancid.
There are two brands which produce organic flax oil that is usually fresh and good-tasting. These are Spectrum and Barleans. Spectrum is the more consistent of the two brands. These oils are available at health food stores, and grocery stores that cater to the health conscious. They are sold in the refrigerator section, and should be refrigerated again immediately after purchase.
If you do not have access to these oils where you live, they can be ordered from the online supplement stores. When it's relatively cold outside, the oil can be shipped to you without a problem. In the warm months or if you live in a place where it is warm all year, you will need to have them shipped in a cold pack. Not all online stores offer cold packs, but several do.
Taste the oil when you bring it home or have it delivered. If it does not taste fresh and good, if you detect bitterness, return it or call the online store and ask for a refund. Retailers seem to be quite used to people returning rancid flax oil, and they will give you a refund or replacement.
The amount of oil you need per day to keep yourself healthy is one tablespoon for each 100 pounds of body weight. If you have had cancer and are trying to prevent a recurrence you may want to double that amount. If you are actively fighting cancer or other serious disease, you will need to take the oil throughout the day, building up to an amount of 8 ounces or more as you are able to tolerate it.
Never heat flax oil. Always shake the bottle before using.
Using flax lignansSpectrum and Barleans as well as others produce flax oil with lignans added. They usually settle to the bottom requiring you to give the bottle a hard shaking every time you use it.
If you don't want to take flax oil with lignans but want to get the benefits of lignans, you can get one of the capsule forms on the market containing SDG. The best known of these is Brevail, made by the Barleans company. There are others that are equally as effective.