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- Wednesday, December 11, 2013 - From Print Edition


MANITOBA: Flaxseed is well known as a plant source of omega-3 fatty acids, fibre and lignans, a type of antioxidants.


Eating a bit of flaxseed each day might help lower high blood pressure, a new study suggests.Researchers said it’s too early to swap out blood pressure medication for the fibre-filled seeds just yet. But if future studies confirm the new results, flax might be a cheap way to treat high blood pressure, they added.


Flaxseed is well known as a plant source of omega-3 fatty acids, fibre and lignans, a type of antioxidants.But so far, its effect on high blood pressure, or hypertension, has been better studied among animals than humans.


“This is the first demonstration of the cardiovascular effects of dietary flaxseed in a hypertensive population,” Grant Pierce told Reuters Health in an email. Pierce is the senior author on the study and executive director of research at St. Boniface Hospital in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada.


One in three American adults has high blood pressure, considered 140/90 millimetres of mercury (mm Hg) and over, according to the National Institutes of Health.Having high blood pressure increases a person’s risk of heart disease and stroke. The condition costs the US billions of dollars each year, Pierce said.


“It is the number one reason for a person to visit a physician in the US today,” he said. “Understanding how to reduce blood pressure has become, therefore, a critical challenge.” His team’s results were published in the journal Hypertension.


The trial included 110 people who had been diagnosed with peripheral artery disease, in which plaque builds up in arteries in the leg. Patients with the condition often have high blood pressure.


The participants were randomly assigned to either a flaxseed or comparison group.People in the flaxseed group ate a variety of foods like bagels, muffins and pasta that contained 30 grams - about one ounce - of milled flaxseed every day for six months.


Those in the comparison group were given foods that tasted similar, but didn’t contain any flaxseed.The researchers had participants increase their dose of flaxseed gradually so they could become accustomed to the fibre load.


Still, one in five participants dropped out of each group during the trial. Some of that could have been due to stomach pain from the extra fibre, Pierce said.People who had an initial systolic blood pressure - the top number in a blood pressure reading - of at least 140 mm Hg saw that figure drop by 15 mm Hg, on average, after six months of taking flaxseed.