What are its benefits?
Flax seeds and ground flax seed meal are considered by many to be a “superfood” for their healthy fats and fiber. Recent studies highlight some reasons for this claim.
A 2019 review of scientific literature focused on herbs used in European countries to treat gastrointestinal disorders and that were shown to work via their effect on the microbiome. The review found that the fiber in flax seed meal is fermented by bacteria in the gut into short chain fatty acids (SCFA), providing a prebiotic effect.
- Evidence indicates that short chain fatty acids (SCFA) are important to gut and metabolic health. It is likely that SCFAs produced by microbial fermentation of indigestible carbohydrates are the intermediators of the benefits measured in the gut microbiome. These SCFAs perform a number of functions: they regulate pH, produce mucous, feed epithelial cells, and support mucosal immune health. They are also believed to affect metabolic processes such as appetite regulation, energy expenditure, glucose homeostasis, and immunomodulation.
A 2015 Danish study of overweight but otherwise healthy post-menopausal women found that consuming flax seed meal had these significant effects:
- Increased populations of 33 beneficial intestinal bacteria species (including Bilophila wadsworthia, Parabacteroides merdae, and Parabacteroides johnsonii)
- Decreased populations of eight pathogenic bacteria species (including Eubacterium, Ruminococus, and Faecalibacterium)
- Increased insulin sensitivity (which allows cells to use blood glucose more effectively)
What is it?
Flax seed (Linum usitatissimum) meal is a great source of alpha-linolenic acid — a heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acid, and it is high in lignans (small water soluble polyphenols found in plants, seeds, whole grains, and vegetables), which contain phytoestrogens. Flax seed meal consists of approximately 42% fat, 18% protein, and about 28% carbohydrate. Almost all of the carbs are fiber, which is composed of 20–40% soluble fiber (mucilage gums) and 60–80% insoluble fiber (cellulose and lignins, which are undigestible complex polymers that are used in cell walls and other support tissues of most plants). Flax seed meal also provides calcium, iron, and potassium.
- The role of gut microbiota for the activity of medicinal plants traditionally used in the European Union for gastrointestinal disorders
- Short chain fatty acids in human gut and metabolic health
- Flax Alters Gut Bacteria, Reduces Insulin Resistance
- Flaxseed fiber ferments in gut to improve health, reduce obesity (mouse study)
- Flaxseed and flaxseed oil