Flax Seed: The Other Side of the Story
Flax seed oil is the richest known source of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) and omega-3 fatty acids and, is gaining attention as a power food. And some of us have even started using flax seed in our daily diet after reading all those hoooo haaas about them in those articles and ads without knowing what exactly they are!
Do you Know Flax Seed?
Flax seed (also known as linseed) is the seed of a blue flowering plant called Linum usitatissimum. The nutty flavour of the seed is not unfamiliar to those amongst us who are health conscious. With an abundance of ALA (alpha linolenic acid) and omega-3 fatty acids, they are shiny with a hard shell and are a little larger than sesame seeds. News channels and health care websites have come up with various findings on the health benefits of flax seeds including,
- Flax seed can decrease hot flashes in postmenopausal women
- The oil of the seed can treat dandruff, psoriasis, eczema and dry skin
- It can improve fat loss and body composition.
- The anti inflammatory properties provide comfort to osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, migraine headaches, and osteoporosis
- It has noteworthy cholesterol lowering effects as compared to statin drugs
- It can lower blood sugar in the diabetics
- The dietary fibre in it can help with constipation and even reduce the risk of colon cancer
- The magnesium in it help with asthma
- The combined effect of omega-3 fatty acids and lignans arrest prostrate cancer tendency in men
- It may prevent hypertension, heart disease, stroke and more.
These are some of the claims that I read of in various media. But are there any cons?
The Negatives of Using Flax Seed
There is no coin without two sides. As stated before, flax seed is rich in alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) and omega-3 fatty acids. The side effects of Omega 3s are said to be negligible in comparison to the health benefits they offer. But what about the ALAs? ALAs become useful only after being converted to EPA and DHA which is limited in our body. Fish oil is said to serve better in this regard.
First of all, eating the whole seeds risk constipation and abdominal chaos including diarrhea. They are not a tasty crunch either. Often, you get recommendation on using powdered flax seeds in the diet. Secondly, there are some side effects like:
- Higher levels of ALA is linked with cancer.
- Any bleeding or blood thinning effect.
- Allergic reaction in some people
- They also increase the estrogen levels in women and may increase the chances of endometriosis.
Flax seeds are not harmful by themselves but are beneficial to a prudent user.