June 2013

Flaxseed May Not Benefit Children with High Cholesterol

Eating flaxseed may not reduce cholesterol levels in children and adolescents, according to a recent study.

Flaxseed and its derivative flaxseed oil (or linseed oil) are rich sources of the essential fatty acid alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), which is a biologic precursor to omega-3 fatty acids such as eicosapentaenoic acid. Although omega-3 fatty acids have been associated with improved cardiovascular outcomes, evidence from human trials is mixed regarding the efficacy of flaxseed products for coronary artery disease or hyperlipidemia (high lipid levels).

In a recent study, researchers randomly assigned 32 children and adolescents 8-18 years-old with high cholesterol levels to eat two muffins and one slice of bread containing a total of 30 grams of flaxseed daily, or to eat control muffins and bread containing whole wheat flour.

The researchers found that daily flaxseed consumption resulted in decreases in high-density lipoprotein (HDL, or "good") cholesterol, increases in triglyceride levels, and increases in polyunsaturated fat intake. Effects on total cholesterol levels, low-density lipoprotein (LDL, or "bad") cholesterol levels, body mass index and calorie intake were lacking.

The authors concluded that flaxseed supplementation may not be a beneficial option for children and adolescents with high cholesterol. Further research is warranted.

In addition to flaxseed, many other integrative therapies have been studied for their potential benefits in people with high cholesterol levels. Many studies have demonstrated that beta-sitosterol helps lower total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol. Psyllium has been studied for its effects on lowering total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol. Strong evidence for its effects on triglyceride levels is lacking, and results are conflicting as to its effects on HDL cholesterol levels. Studies on other effects of psyllium on protein levels and plaque lipid content are unclear at this time.

For more information about integrative therapies with evidence of benefit for high cholesterol, please visit Natural Standard's Comparative Effectiveness Database.

For more information about flaxseed, please visit Natural Standard's Foods, Herbs & Supplements Database.

To comment on this story, please visit Natural Standard's blog.


  1. Natural Standard: The Authority on Integrative Medicine. 
  2. Wong H, Chahal N, Manlhiot C, et al. Flaxseed in Pediatric Hyperlipidemia: A Placebo-Controlled, Blinded, Randomized Clinical Trial of Dietary Flaxseed Supplementation for Children and Adolescents With Hypercholesterolemia. JAMA Pediatr. 2013 Jun 3:1-5. doi: 10.1001/jamapediatrics.2013.1442. 

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