What is lignan in flaxseed oil?

Are you one of those people who think flaxseed oil is boring and tasteless? If yes, then let me tell you about the hidden gem present in flaxseeds that make it not just healthy but also tasty – lignan! Lignans are a group of plant compounds that hold various health benefits. And these small molecules are what makes the humble flaxseed oil stand out from other cooking oils. Curious to know more about this wonder compound? Keep reading!

The Origin Story

Lignans were first discovered back in 1956 when researchers were analyzing the composition of wood pulp. They found a constituent compound that had previously gone unnoticed – lignin (1). As they delved deeper into studying it, they realized that lignin was made up of even smaller components called ‘lignans.’

But it wasn’t until 1980 when scientists at Finland’s University of Turku demonstrated that human gut bacteria could convert lignans to enterolactone and enterodiol (2), two potent phytoestrogens with impressive antioxidant properties.

And where do we find high quantities of dietary lignans? In foods rich in fiber such as whole grains, fruits, and seeds; especially flaxseeds.

Now that we have brushed up on our history lessons let’s talk more about how this fiber-packed food staple can enhance your nutrition game.

Chemical Structure & Types

Chemical structure

Lignans are an intricate class of polyphenols containing both unaesthetic monomers like pinoresinol and secoisolariciresinol diglucoside (SDG), which usually exist primarily in plants. When humans eat foods rich in SDG or matairesinols-O-glucoside, their gut bacteria convert these compounds into the potent phytoestrogens – enterolactone and enterodiol (3).

Enterolactone and enterodiol have a unique chemical structure that helps them exert various health benefits. Their antioxidant properties have been shown to protect the body against numerous diseases such as cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, osteoporosis among others.

How Lignans Work

Lignans are anti-estrogenic in nature; which means they compete with estrogen receptors for binding to human cells. Once they successfully bind to an estrogen receptor site, lignans can either possess weak estrogenic or anti-estrogenic activity depending on cellular conditions (4).

The lignin phytochemicals modify how we store fats – specifically addressing fat associated with belly weight gain known as visceral adipose tissue (5).

Moreover, some studies suggest that certain types of lignan-rich foods may improve HDL: LDL cholesterol ratios due to increased synthesis of apolipoprotein A1 – a protein required for proper lipid processing (6).

There are also claims from reputed scientific publications stating that high levels of circulating estrogens directly correlate with higher risks of developing breast cancer because prolonged exposure translates into overactive or imbalanced cell-replication processes(7). Here is where our little friends – Enterolactone and Enterodiol come into play .

Enterodiol gets converted to another compound called 17beta-Estradiol in liver cells via aromatase enzymes increases its concentration inside cells’’(8).

Here the crucial aspect is knowing that Flaxseed’s plant-based nutrient profile has strong resemblances with estradiols’ molecular framework. So it wouldn’t be too far-fetched to deduce that these invaluable substances could potentially act as defensive shields against prevalent hormonal cancers like prostate and breast cancers(9).

Health Benefits

Lignans have a wide range of health benefits, making them an essential part of anyone’s diet.

Hormone Balance

As we’ve discussed, lignans’ phytoestrogen activity helps manage estrogen-responsive cancer risks in both sexes.

But this balancing property extends beyond just hormonal systems. According to Dr. John Salerno- MD, adding lignan-rich foods to the current Western dietary pattern can significantly improve your body’s Efflux capacity of surplus hormones like androgens (10).

Antioxidant Properties

Antioxidants are chemicals that protect the body from free radicals – unstable molecules produced naturally by cellular metabolism or environmental toxins. These free radicals can damage cells and lead to oxidative stress responsible for aging processes along with numerous modern syndromes(11).

Accordingly, Lignans found in flaxseeds are one such potent antioxidant agent capable of lowering serum oxidative stress markers which consequently aid chronic inflammatory disorders management(12).

Cardiovascular Health

Flaxseed oil has been shown to hold various cardiovascular benefits. The studies conducted on rats concluded that Flaxseed consumption indeed led to significant improvements in hypertension contro by directly controlling blood volume modulation control(13). Meanwhile, other scientific literature supports these findings using larger samples sizes comprising humans as well (14).

Dietary Sources

The recommended daily intake for lignan consumption among adults is about 30mg/day (15). Here are some dietary sources rich in Lignins :

Foods Amount per serving
Ground flaxseed 1 tbsp: 7g SDG=20–60 μg enterolactone
Sesame seeds 1 tsp: 0.6–2 mgSDG
Whole grains highly variable concentration

Risks & Side Effects

High levels of excessive amounts might not always mean better health, In some cases, higher than recommended intake may cause digestive discomfort, increased stool frequency or gas due to fiber accumulation (16). However, consuming too much of a specific type of lignan – SDG may exert phytoestrogenic side effects which would mostly depend on your current sex hormones’ differential balances. The safe and recommended amount of Lignin should be consumed through dietary sources rather than in supplementary form (17).

Conclusion – Add Flaxseed Oil to Your Diet Today!

So there you have it! A comprehensive primer on what Lignin in Flaxseed oil is all about backed by science factoids here and there.

Adding flaxseed oil into your dietary regimen can change the way you perceive healthy eating habits for good. With numerous anecdotal references supporting these claims’ effectiveness fused with reliable scientific literature backing down solid reasons behind them, There’s no denying anymore that our food patterns need more plant-rich substitutes like this one!!

Who knew being healthy could be not only just limited to ‘Eating Kale salads’