Prostate Cancer and Flaxseeds – Is there a Health Connection?

Q & A with Dr. Joey

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Q: I heard there is a link between prostate cancer and eating flaxseeds. Can you explain?

A: A study published in the Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 2004 demonstrated that ALA (alpha-linolenic acid, an omega-3 fatty acid precursor found at high levels in flaxseeds), was 440% higher in men suffering from late stage prostate cancer. In addition, this same study demonstrated that DHA and EPA found in fish oils appeared to reduce the total risk associated with advanced prostate cancer.

The question begs: is flaxseed a safe option for men to take daily? Upon closer inspection of this study and surrounding research, it appears that the issue is not the rising amount of ALA in the body, rather, it is the increase in consumption of chemical fats such as trans fatty acids and a decrease in omega-3 fat derivatives called DHA and EPA. The desired ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fats is approximately 1:1. Unfortunately, due to an over-consumption of the wrong fats such as trans fatty acids and refined vegetables oils, that ratio is approximately 20:1 to 30:1. Too little of the precious essential fats called omega-3 can lead to a myriad of health issues such as heart disease, depression and even cancer. In addition, a majority of the ALA found in the body is derived from meat sources, not flaxseed.

Thus, it appears that flaxseeds were given an undeserved bad rap. In fact, flaxseeds are a wonderful part of the daily diet containing both soluble and insoluble fiber. They also contain a special fiber called mucilage. Mucilage helps to stabilize blood sugar control and helps to protect against bowel cancer. In addition, flaxseeds also contain plant chemicals called lignans that have anti-cancer, anti-viral, anti-bacterial and antioxidant properties. Lastly, flaxseeds are a good source of protein containing 25 grams of protein per every 100 gram of flaxseeds. Although flaxseeds do contain omega-3 essential fats, after digested by the body, they do not offer a considerable amount. For omega-3 fats, it is best to rely on a distilled, high quality fish oil.

In addition to taking flaxseeds for their powerful anti-cancer effects, there are other powerful steps that can be taken to prevent prostate cancer which include:

• Going vegetarian. Men who rid their diet of red meat reduce inflammation and ALA levels in the body.
• Reduce dairy product. Only consume high quality dairy products (yogurt, cottage cheese, etc.) in moderation.
• Supplement with a minimum of 2 to 3 grams of fish oils daily.
• Eat tomatoes! Tomatoes are filled with a powerful plant chemical called lycopene which is a potent anti-cancer agent.
• Maintain a healthy body weight by exercising and eating a diet filled with low glycemic index carbohydrates, lean proteins and essential fats.

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