Ground flaxseed vs oil research throws up some new facts about cholesterol.
It’s now beyond dispute that flaxseed has a profound effect on raised cholesterol – as effective as statins – but which is more effective? Freshly ground flaxseed or flaxseed oil?
Flaxseeds contain two (and no doubt many more that remain unresearched) vital ingredients. It’s the richest plant source of omega 3 (there are three omega-3 fatty acids: here we are talking about ALA, or alpha linolenic acid), but also a group of plant compounds called lignans; both have an effect on inflammation in blood vessels, muscles and joints, but what effect do they have on the cholesterol profile?
Flax seed field in flower. Photo by Jason Hawkes.
Flaxseed oil contains no lignans, and even "lignan enriched" oil has at most two percent lignans.
And what about the cost of freshly ground flaxseeds vs flaxseed oil in capsules?
1. University of Bucharest – department of medicine and pharmacology.
Researchers took a group of adults with raised total cholesterol (> 240 mg/dl) and divided them into three groups:
After two months, the researchers found:
Perhaps more important: they reported there was "no significant difference" between the statin and the flax seed groups.(1)
2. Emory University (Force trial)
Researchers took a group of obese (BMI 37 average), divided them into two groups both of whom also went on the American Heart Association Step one diet:
After six months the researchers tested both the cholesterol profiles, and the particle size of the cholesterol*.
* Particles size. The larger LDL particles are less damaging, and the larger HDL particles are more beneficial.
Discussion: The known protection of flax seed does not come from a change in the cholesterol profile from consuming flaxseed oil. Researchers speculate that the it is the lignans in flaxseed that is responsible for the cholesterol lowering effect, not from the omega 3 fatty acid, ALA.
It's also known that ALA is converted in the body to the other two omega 3 fatty acids, EPA and DHA. They speculate that the cardiac benefit is from these other two fatty acids, mostly obtained from marine based sources.
3. University of Pennsylvania trial (J Am Coll Nutr 2008 27(1))
Raw freshly-ground flaxseed vs flaxseed in baked products
62 persons with raised LDL were divided into two groups. Both groups followed a low fat, low cholesterol diet. Both groups ate two baked muffins a day, each containing either
(40g of ground flaxseed is about two-and-a-half tablespoons.)
My overall conclusions @ Ground flaxseed vs oil
A 2kg packet of whole flaxseed costs about $2. In 20g doses perday (one and a third tablespoons, used in the research above), this would last 100 days. Or two cents per day.
In 1g capsules, one manufacturer sells 100 capsules for $12.99 + P&P. Nuff said! 5 capsules a day... expensive, and a tenth of the value.
I don't recommend flaxseed oil in bottles at all. The omega-3, being a powerful anti-oxidising agent, is very rapidly oxidised. The bottle must be finished within two weeks (and that's probably too long) of opening, even if refrigerated. After that it forms toxic, awful tasting, break down products.
For more information on the value of flaxseeds, read our flax seed nutrition information page at Chiropractic Help ...
Flaxseed grinder @ ground flaxseed vs oil
An inexpensive coffee grinder (around $20) works perfectly well for grinding flaxseed and sesame seed, the other important source of lignans.
The grinder takes about 4 TBSP, enough for three days, refrigerate, and it it takes about 10s to grind the seed.
Sprinkle the freshly ground flax seed on your oats based muesli, the king of cholesterol lowering foods. Quaker oats recipes ... add some fresh fruit that's in season, like strawberries, perhaps a few raisins and three freshly cracked pecan nuts or walnuts. Pecans nutrition ...
There are no arguments in the ground flaxseed vs oil debate.