Flax Seed: Save your life at State Fair this Week

July 30, 2006

Flax Seed:  Save your life at State Fair this Week! 

 Competency #12  Fiber and 14 Superfood                Reference: Flax Seed Booth at Wisconsin State Fair 

 A super food at State Fair!  I must have lost my mind.  Cream puffs, bar-be-qued ribs, funnel cakes, ice cream sundaes, corn dipped in butter.  None of those make the list.  In fact, each of those have reason to be on the all-star list of deadly foods. But Flax Seed is also at State Fair.  In the Exposition Building, Aisle 900, right in the middle is a booth selling flax seed and teaching you all about its benefits.  

I’ve been eating flax seed for three years now and so should you.  In fact, I’m deadly serious about starting to eat flax seed.  And it really can save your life.   Here is how and why. Flax has three very potent separate components.  The first component is the highest measured source of omega fatty acids in a plant-based food.  Nearly 40% of the calories come from what’s called ALA, an omega three fatty acid.  It is a fragile molecule and spoils quickly once exposed to light and oxygen.  Hence, it’s hard to sell commercially.  One of the unintended “mega-trends” of industrial farming in the 20th century is the radical change in our diets away from fresh foods containing omega-3 fatty acids to foods with long shelf lives and many omega-6s.  With that mega-trend, the ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 in our diet has changed from a 1:2 ratio a hundred years ago, to a 1:20 ratio today.  Adding flax seed, freshly ground, back into your diet will help reverse that trend and bring your body’s essential oils back into balance.   Our body can't make omega-3s or 6s so they are almost like vitamins and crucial to us for good health.  (Did you know that your brain is 40% omega fatty acids?) 

 Component number 2 is FIBER.  We Americans eat less than 15 grams of fiber a day.  It’s been known for almost a 100 years that populations with 50 grams of fiber a day have a virtual absence of many of our modern illnesses.  Notably, colon cancer, diverticulitis, gallbladder disease, appendicitis, and then coronary artery disease to boot all dramatically decline with a high fiber diet.  In America, all our research has failed to show a benefit of fiber.  That’s because the highest fiber content anyone in America eats is 25 grams a day.  Newer research has begun to show that if you can get yourself to 40 grams a day, you will dramatically improve your odds against getting many of our modern ills.  How?  All that fiber moves your system along, causing you to “lose” a lot more bile acids, which are made from cholesterol.  So you lower your cholesterols.  You also lower your glycemic response to foods, and soften your blood sugar response.  So, yup – high fiber diets also dramatically reduce your risk of diabetes.  How much fiber in flax seed:  ¼ cup = 15 grams!  Be careful if you start.  For a day or two, you might feel a bit more, shall we politely say, "active".  You'll get used to it. 

 The final golden nugget are LIGNANS.  Again, flax is number 1 by far as a source of lignans.  These are natural estrogens that our bodies appear to crave.  (Fancy name is secoisolariciresinol digloside (SDG)) The literature is early but there is probably real reason to believe that flax may be a great source to help hot flashes, prostate cancer and all the same aging decline processes that soy seems to help.  They have antioxidant qualities as well as antibacterial and antifungal qualities.  Those properties seem to help preserve the flax seed.  Better, they seem to help preserve you and me.  Stay tuned on this topic.  Lignans are a fascinating class of chemicals and I’m waiting for a good review. So, enjoy your outing to State Fair.  Limit your vice to just one cream puff.  Wipe the full fat Wisconsin whipped cream off your face and head over to the Expo center (Center of Aisle 900).  Tell Anne and Jac Horner that John sent you.  Buy their flax cookbook.  Try their free sample of pineapple juice and flax.  Add more good years to your life. 

 WWW: What will work for me?  I eat a quarter cup of flax a day on my whole grain warm cereal each morning.  I purchased the Flax Cookbook at State Fair and intend to learn some more recipes.  Make it a journey.  Learn one recipe you can add flax

This column is written by Dr. John E. Whitcomb, MD,Brookfield Longevity, Brookfield, WI. (262-784-5300)