A recent study by scientists at the University of Copenhagen in Denmark and the University of Gothenburg in Sweden investigated the effects of flaxseed on obesity and gastrointestinal microbiota. Previous studies have shown that flaxseed, a rich source of fiber, is helpful for managing cholesterol, as well as controlling inflammatory disease.
This recent study, published in the American Journal of Physiology: Endocrinology and Metabolism, investigated the effects of flaxseed fiber in a variety of conditions.
The research team began their study by splitting a group of mice into four groups:
- The first group was fed a standard diet with 4.6% of soy fiber added.
- The second group was fed a high-fat diet with no fiber added.
- The third group was fed a high-fat diet with 10% of indigestible cellulose fiber added.
- The fourth group was fed a high-fat diet with 10% of flaxseed fiber added.
The scientists compared the four groups in various ways:
- They determined how much oxygen the mice used.
- They determined how much carbon dioxide the mice produced.
- They measured how much food the mice ate.
- They measured how much water the mice drank.
- They measured how much energy the mice expended.
- They measured the blood sugar levels of the mice.
- They measured the weights of the mice.
- At the end of the study, the scientists also took samples from the large intestines of the mice in order to determine how their gut microbiota had been affected by their diets.
As was expected, the mice in the second group, who were fed a high-fat diet with no added fiber, had lower levels of the bacteria associated with good metabolic health, and higher levels of the bacteria associated with obesity. These levels of bacteria corresponded well with the weight gain and glucose tolerance of the mice in this group.
The mice in the fourth group, who were fed a high-fat diet with the addition of flaxseed fiber, were found to be the healthiest in all of categories that were measured. In particular, the bacterial gut diversity of the mice in this group reached a healthier balance than those the other groups.
The researchers noted that flaxseed begins its beneficial fermentation process when it reaches the gut. This breakdown of flaxseed fiber causes positive changes to the gut microbiome. These benefits also contributed to better metabolic health.
Further, the weight gain in this group was smaller, and their glucose tolerance higher, than the mice in the other groups.
In addition to these benefits, the mice in the fourth group were more physically active at the end of the study then those in the other three groups.
The takeaway message for us is clear: it has been known for some time that fiber is fundamental for good health, in particular for metabolic health. This new research shows that flaxseed fiber has a wider variety of health benefits than scientists were even aware of.
Since organic flaxseeds (whether ground or whole) are readily available, inexpensive, and easily added to our diets by sprinkling them on salads or putting them into smoothies, it would be worthwhile for us to add this healthful food to our diets.
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