Flax Cancer Alternative | Natural Health Blog

Date: 06/04/2007    Written by: Jon Barron

Flax Redeemed Vis-a-vis Prostate Cancer

Back in 2002, a series of studies started coming out challenging the safety of flax seed oil for men in regard to prostate cancer. In October of that year, I wrote a newsletter questioning the validity of those studies, and I caught a lot of grief for taking that position. People questioned my judgement saying, "Why even go there?" "Better safe than sorry." "Why not just use fish oil to get your Omega-3's?" Even many alternative health authorities backed away from flax based on those studies.

My position then (as it has remained for the last five years) was that the studies made no sense. They ran counter to all logic and anecdotal experience. And more to the point, there were things in flax seed oil (lignans) that actually prevented prostate cancer and that were not found in fish oil.

Well, the results of a new study of flax seed, sponsored by the National Institutes for Health, were just announced at a meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology. In summary the study found:

  • Flaxseed supplementation significantly reduced cancer cell proliferation rates in men with prostate cancer.
  • Flaxseed is one of the richest known sources of lignans, which affect androgen metabolism and have antimitotic, antiangiogenic, antioxidant, and estrogenic effects.
  • Median proliferation rate (MIB-1 volume) was 1.5 in patients randomized to flaxseed and low-fat diet, 1.66 in the flaxseed-only group, 2.56 in the low fat-diet group, and 3.23 in the control group (P=0.0013). The proliferation rate did not differ between patients randomized to flaxseed alone or in combination with a low-fat diet.

So, is the purpose of this blog entry to gloat and say, “I told you so?” Not at all. In fact, the point of this blog entry isn't even really about flaxseed at all.

The point is that as study after study comes out slamming natural health alternatives claiming that they are ineffective or even dangerous, take them with a grain of salt. If they run contrary to logic, contrary to decades of anecdotal evidence, then they probably aren't worth the time it takes to read them. And more to the point, it might not be just a question of better safe than sorry. You might very well indeed be losing a valuable health component by "cautiously" abstaining. Think of all the cancer protection men just lost who stopped using flaxseed over the last five years by "playing it safe."

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    Submitted by Carolyn on
    June 9, 2009 - 2:42pm

    If you cannot eat cottage cheese, what other sulfur-containing protein foods can you mix the flax oil with?
    Thank you.

    Submitted by Doug Hulstedt on
    June 13, 2007 - 9:26am

    Hi Jon,
    What are you recommending to pregnant women and breastfeeding women for their omega-3s.
    I have switched over to Udo oil with DHA from fish oil for the last few months. Doesn't fish oil have potential for depleting the fish populations? and krill knocking out the base of the food pyramid in the ocean? ie don't whales need to eat too?
    Also isn't veggie based oil less fragile than fish oil? Am I losing braincells in infants as I am a pediatrician making recommendations. Plus our family owns a health store. Thanks

    Submitted by Jayson on
    June 4, 2007 - 6:33am

    I think the mudslinging between fish and flax proponents will do more harm than good. Unfortunately, the press coverage of this study has been inaccurate and a bit cynical.
    What was used in the study? Was it flax seed or oil?

    Submitted by Jeff on
    November 3, 2008 - 7:21am

    Flax seed and flax oil are two very different things. While the seed has proven to be beneficial, the oil alone can increase the risk of prostate cancer. If you are from a family at risk for prostate cancer I would recommend you avoid flax oil or discuss it at length with your doctor and/or an expert on the subject.

    Submitted by Kathy on
    September 5, 2011 - 8:24pm

    I'm concerned that most doctors have not even heard of the research , let alone read it.

    Submitted by Jon Barron on
    June 4, 2007 - 11:49am

    I absolutely appreciate the comments about mudslinging, but this entry is not about comparing fish oil to flaxseed oil. In fact, as I state above, it’s not even really about Omega-3 oils at all. The flaxseed study was just a launching point to talk about overreacting to negative studies.
    Incidentally, when it comes to comparing flaxseed oil to fish oil, don’t forget krill oil. Each offers something the other does not have. (Check out the second link in the entry which takes you to a blog that compares the three.) In the end, it’s not about using one or the other, but rather, using a combination to get the benefits of all three.

    Submitted by Jon Barron on
    June 20, 2007 - 10:46pm

    Yes, there are problems with the potential depletion of fish and kill in the ocean. Unfortunately, for many people, Omega-3 vegetable oils are not an option because their bodies have lost the ability to convert alpha-linolenic acid into DHA and EPA. Check out /alternative-cancer/natural-health-remedies-flax-prostate.

    Submitted by Jon Barron on
    November 4, 2008 - 1:16am


    Actually, that's not quite true. Those assumptions are based on a single flawed study that became an urban myth. (It should be noted that the study in question did not distinguish between flax and flax seed oil -- both were equally problematic.) I wrote about the problems with that study some six years ago when it was first published. http://www.jonbarron.org/anti-aging-program/10-21-2002.php. Then, just last year, new studies proved the value of flax in preventing cancer. http://www.jonbarron.org/blog_published/2007/06/flax_redeemed_visavis_prostate.html.

    Submitted by Jon Barron on
    June 9, 2009 - 2:53pm

    You can use a ""companion nutrient"" product instead of cottage cheese. For example: http://www.budwigflax.com/companion%20nutrients.html. The key is methionine.

    Submitted by Jon Barron on
    March 10, 2009 - 5:34pm

    Don't believe everything you're told. Check out http://www.jonbarron.org/blog_published/2007/06/flax_redeemed_visavis_prostate.html

    Submitted by Milehimama on
    June 4, 2007 - 10:37am

    Flax oil is different from fish oil - it induces mania in some bipolar patients but fish oil can actually diminish it.
    That has nothing to do with prostate cancer, it's just a warning that flax may not be the best choice for everyone.

    Submitted by Rico on
    April 22, 2009 - 5:29am

    What about combining flax seed oil with cottage cheese and/or other sulphurated proteins? (cf: Johanna Budwig & the Budwig diet) The way I understand it, this mixture is supposed to make flax seed oil more assimilable. (+ makes a great substitute for mayonnaise, sour cream, whipped cream etc.)

    Submitted by Robert on
    March 9, 2009 - 1:12pm

    It seems clear that flax seeds are safe, but I was told that flax seed oil is dangerous to men, (if the refining process filters out the bulk of the solid lignans.) If so, is there a minimum amount of solid lignans which might make the oil safe -(could one simply add some ground up flax meal to refined oil to help this? Thanks very much.

    Submitted by Tom on
    May 19, 2009 - 6:13pm

    I think the Budwig diet holds water. The flax works with the sulfurs from the cottage cheese.
    Flax brings more oxygen to the cell membrane and compounds in the cottage cheese help the O2 enter and also help the health of the cell membrane and stabilize the ionic balance of it.
    It is recommended to use organic flax and organic cottage cheese for this. If you search Dr. Budwig online there is a plethora of information on her and some good books too.

    Submitted by prostate health on
    April 14, 2011 - 7:09pm

    Good post Jon. I have learned something from your blog. Though I don't have any prostate cancer or any problems related to it however I know someone who is terribly suffering from PC. I probably send him your link so that he could follow your links and the information he may get from your blogs. More post.

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