Besides improving your heart health, consuming flax seeds can also cause changes in the gut microbiota, boost metabolic health as well as protect against diet-induced obesity, finds a study. Flax seed is a fibre-rich plant that has been shown to improve cholesterol levels and inflammation in the colon. However, there is little research on how flax seed fibre affects gut microbiota. In the study, conducted on mice, those that received flax seed supplements were more physically active and had less weight gain than those on other high-fat diet groups. They also had better glucose control and levels of beneficial fatty acids.
The breakdown of dietary fibre in the gut — a process called fermentation — can produce favourable changes in the digestive system. It can increase beneficial fatty acids, which may reduce the production of adipose tissue in the body and improve immune function, explained the researchers, in the study published in the American Journal of Physiology: Endocrinology and Metabolism. “Our data suggest that flax seed fibre supplementation affects host metabolism by increasing energy expenditure and reducing obesity as well as by improving glucose tolerance,” said Fredrik Backhed from the University of Gothenburg in Sweden.
For the study, the team studied mice assigned to four different diets for 12 weeks. The high-fat group had fewer bacteria associated with improved metabolic health, lower levels of beneficial fatty acids and more of a bacterium linked to obesity when compared to the other groups. Bacteria levels in both the cellulose and flax seed groups returned to healthier levels when compared to the high-fat group. The team also found evidence that the bacteria present ferment fibres from the thick, glue-like layer of the flax seed shell. The bacteria that perform fermentation then produce more beneficial fatty acids.
“Future research should be directed to understand relative contribution of the different microbes and delineate underlying mechanisms for how flax seed fibres affect host metabolism,” the researchers noted.
Other health benefits of flax seeds:
- Flax seeds are a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids
- The seed contains a group of nutrients which is called lignans. These nutrients have powerful antioxidant and estrogen properties
- The seeds help in lowering the cholesterol which makes it a heart-friendly food
- Due to insoluble fiber content flax seeds help in managing diabetes
- Since these seeds are rich in fiber, it helps in weight loss and even improving the bowel movement
- Flax seeds help in lowering high blood pressure
- Flax seeds also contain high amounts of protein