In the study, prostate cancer patients who added about 3 heaping tablespoons of ground flaxseed daily to their diet had more slowly-dividing tumor cells and a greater rate of tumor cell death than men who did not follow this diet, after about 5 weeks.
The investigators found no significant difference in levels of prostate specific antigen (PSA), a protein in the blood that indicates prostate cancer progression, between the two groups -- although men in the early stages of the disease experienced a trend toward lower levels.
Flaxseed was commonly used in cereals and breads in the Middle Ages, but has not been a staple in the modern diet since the industrial age. It is rich in fiber and omega-3 fatty acids, which may affect levels of hormones that are involved in the progression of cancer.
Flaxseed also contains a fiber-like compound, lignan, which is thought to bind to testosterone and possibly help remove it from the body. This could, in turn, help suppress the growth of prostate cancer cells.
Prostate cancer is the most common cancer among American men, excluding skin cancers. The American Cancer Society estimates that more than 198,000 new cases of prostate cancer will be diagnosed in the US in 2001. While the cancer will be diagnosed in about 1 in 6 men, about 1 in 30 will die of the disease.
Urology July 2001;58
Ground flaxseeds are a useful addition to most peoples' diets. The unfortunate problem though with using them for most people is that when one has elevated insulin levels, the delta six desaturase enzyme is severely inhibited.
This enzyme is responsible for converting the alpha linolenic acid (ALA) in flax to longer chain fats (like EPA and DHA) and it is easy to develop an excess of ALA in one's system, which is counterproductive.
Who has elevated insulin levels?
Most Americans, as just about anyone who is overweight (60% of the US population) has excess insulin, as do most of those with high cholesterol, high blood pressure or type 2 diabetes.
So the flax should be used sparingly and probably alternated with other ground grains, like sunflower, sesame and pumpkin, which will help to balance the omega six and omega three ratios.
Pumpkin seeds have other fats in them which are likely to be particularly beneficial for prostate health.
The seeds should be freshly ground in a coffee grinder and I prefer to have them in my freshly produced vegetable juice pulp. Most people who juice throw away the pulp, but I am convinced it is a valuable source of nutrients and should be consumed like a porridge while drinking your fresh vegetable juice.
Drink your juice and eat your pulp.
I don't recommend the use of flaxseed oil however, particularly because of its instability. Five years ago, I used to recommend it to nearly all my patients and I noticed the majority of them could not tolerate it.
This is despite the fact that they were using two of the best brands of flax oil in the country (Omega Flow and Barleans). I came to the conclusion that the nausea they were experiencing was a giant clue from their body and subsequently concluded that most people do not do well with flaxseed oil, which is why I no longer recommend it.