Objective: 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.
Methods: 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: 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.
Conclusions: 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.