The incidence of cardiovascular disease dramatically increases during menopause, and postmenopausal women seek natural alternatives to hormone therapy. Flaxseed can slow the progression of atherosclerotic lesion formation; however, it is not known whether it can reverse formation that has already occurred.
Seventy-two female Golden Syrian hamsters were randomly divided into six groups (n = 12), sham-operated (sham) or ovariectomized (ovx), and kept on the same diet for 120 days to allow for atherosclerotic lesion development. After this 120-day period, whole flaxseed was introduced to the diets of hamsters in three of the groups: group 1 (sham + casein); group 2 (ovx + casein); group 3 (ovx + 7.5% flaxseed); group 4 (ovx + 15% flaxseed); group 5 (ovx + 22.5% flaxseed); and group 6 (ovx + 17β-estradiol). This diet was maintained for an additional 120 days. Lesion regression was examined histologically, and serum was analyzed for total cholesterol, triglyceride, low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, high-density lipoprotein cholesterol, Apo A, Apo B, and lipoprotein(a).
Results showed that 15% and 22.5% flaxseed, compared with ovx animals, significantly reduced lipoprotein(a) (4.4 mg/dL [ovx] vs 2.15 mg/dL [15% flaxseed] and 0.3 mg/dL [22.5% flaxseed]; P < 0.05) and Apo B (2.8 mg/dL [ovx] vs 2.4 mg/dL [15% flaxseed] and 2.5 mg/dL [22.5% flaxseed]). Flax reduced by 67% the number of animals with aortic arch lesions.
All three doses of flax reduce the severity of lesion formation compared with ovx controls. These results support the efficacy of flaxseed in reducing cardiovascular disease risk.