Can tiny Flaxseeds improve health and help reduce obesity?

Flaxseeds are famously tiny but mighty; now new research in mice suggests fermentation of flaxseed fibres in the gut changes the microbiota to improve metabolic health as well as protecting against diet-induced obesity.

The microbes that live in our gut play a role in regulating weight and the way the body processes sugar (glucose tolerance). The breakdown of dietary fibre in the gut (a process called fermentation) can produce positive changes in the digestive system, such as an increase in beneficial fatty acids, which may reduce the production of fat tissue in the body and improve immune function. Flaxseed is fibre-rich and has been shown to improve cholesterol levels and inflammation in the colon. This research looked on the fermentability of flaxseed and the impact on gut microbiota.

Researchers studied mice assigned to four different diets: a standard diet that contained 4.6 percent soy-based fibre (“control”), a high-fat diet that contained no fibre (“high-fat”), a high-fat diet that contained 10 percent indigestible cellulose fibre (“cellulose”) and a high-fat diet that contained 10 percent flaxseed fibre (“flaxseed”).

The high-fat group had fewer bacteria associated with improved metabolic health, lower levels of beneficial fatty acids and more of a bacterium linked to obesity when compared to the other groups. Bacteria levels in both the cellulose and flaxseed groups returned to healthier levels when compared to the high-fat group. The flaxseed group was more physically active and had less weight gain than the other high-fat diet groups. The mice that received flaxseed supplements also had better glucose control and levels of beneficial fatty acids that were comparable to the healthy control group.

Most importantly, the research team found evidence that the bacteria present ferment fibres from the thick, glue-like layer of the flaxseed shell, with the bacteria that perform fermentation then producing more beneficial fatty acids.

The stuff that goes on in our guts! Who’d have thought that such a tiny thing might have such a big impact in increasing our energy use, reducing obesity and in improving glucose tolerance?

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