Flax Seeds for Hypertension

“Flax Seeds for Hypertension” A recent article in the
journal Meat Science acknowledged that a sector of
the population perceives meat as a food that is detrimental to their health because of studies associating meat
consumption with heart disease and cancer. For these reasons, these
meat consumers look for healthier food alternatives
as a means to maintain good health. So, this represents a good opportunity for
the industry to develop some new products. Natural foods could be added to meat
to reach those health-oriented consumers by boosting antioxidants
levels, for example. Foods like flax seeds
and tomatoes are healthy, associated with reduced risks of
cancer and cardiovascular disease. So by making flaxy tomato burgers, they figure they can reduce saturated
fat intake and less sugar somehow? It’s like their flaxseed fed pork
idea to produce “enriched lard.” Wouldn’t it be easier to just to cut out the
middle-pig and eat flax seeds ourselves? Flax seeds have been described as a “miraculous
defense against some critical maladies.” Now, I’m a fan of flax, but this
title seemed a bit over exuberant. I figured something just
got lost in the translation, but then I saw this study and realized
maybe that title is not too far off. Rarely do we see a dietary
study of this caliber. A prospective, double-blinded,
placebo-controlled, randomized trial— you know how hard that
is in a nutrition study? I mean, for drugs it’s easy: you take two identical looking pills –
one’s active, one’s placebo – and until the end of the study
neither the researcher nor the patient has any idea which is which,
hence double blind. But people tend to notice
what they’re eating. So how do you sneak a quarter
cup of ground flaxseeds into half of peoples’ diets
without them knowing it? They created these various flax
or placebo containing foods, and even added like bran and molasses
to match the color and texture so it was all a big secret
until 6 months later when they broke the code
to see who ate which. Why test it on hypertension? Because having a systolic blood pressure
over 115 – that’s the top number – may be the single most important
determinant for death in the world today. If you take a bunch of older folks, most of them on an array of blood pressure
pills, and don’t improve their diet at all, despite the drugs they may start out, on average,
hypertensive and stay hypertensive 6 months later. But those who were unknowingly
eating ground flaxseeds every day dropped their systolic blood
pressure about 10 points, and their diastolic, the lower
number, by about 7 points. That might not sound like a lot, but a drop like that could cut stroke
risk 46%, heart disease 29%, and that 10-point drop in the top number could have
a similar effect on strokes and heart attacks. And for those that started out
over 140, they got a 15-point drop. In summary, flax seed induced
one of the most potent antihypertensive effects ever
achieved by a dietary intervention. In other words, the magnitude of
this decrease in blood pressure, demonstrated by dietary flax seed, is as good or better than any
other nutritional interventions, and comparable to many drugs, which
can have serious side effects. And they’re not exaggerating
about the comparable to drugs bit. The flax dropped systolic
and diastolic up to 15 and 7. Compare that to powerful
ACE inhibitors like Vasotec, which may only drop
pressures 5 and 2. Calcium channel blockers like
Norvasc or Cardizem, 8 and 3 – half of what the flax could do. And side effects include… Compare this list to that of
the side effect of flaxseeds: its pleasant nutty flavor. During the 6-month trial there were
strokes and heart attacks in both groups. Even if the flax seeds can
cut risk in half, though, any avoidable risk is unacceptable. Well, isn’t high blood pressure
just inevitable as we get older? No, the prevalence of hypertension does increase
dramatically with age, but not for everyone. People who eat more plant-based diets or
keep their salt intake low enough tend not to exhibit any change in
blood pressure with advancing age. So, you know, flax is great, but always better
to prevent the disease in the first place.

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