Until recently, product formulators wishing to incorporate flax into functional foods were limited to the use of whole or milled flaxseed or flax oilâ€”not always the most potent or stable sources of valuable flax constituents. The introduction of LinumLifeâ„¢â€”the first highly concentrated, standardized source of flax lignansâ€” by Acatris Inc., has given manufacturers the ability to pack the power of flax into functional offerings such as cereals and bars.
Lignans Lower RiskPositive research on the essential fatty acids in flax helped boost sales of flax supplements in recent years, even as overall dietary supplement sales sagged. In the non-herbal specialty supplement category, sales of flaxseed supplements were up 52% percent in the year ending August 2001. More recent research has focused on flax lignans, a type of phytoestrogen that occurs in higher concentrations in flax than in any other plant. Population studies show that a high intake of lignans is associated with lower rates of heart disease and certain cancers. Lignans have also demonstrated anti-inflammatory and antioxidant activities and, as phytoestrogens, can help regulate hormone levelsâ€”including those responsible for supporting prostate health.
More than half of men over the age of 50 experience symptoms of benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), and a 2000 Gallup Focus Report on the market for nutritional supplements projects above-average growth in the incidence of prostate disorders between 1999 and 2010. While both soy and flax contain phytoestrogens, flax lignans appear to target prostate tissues more specifically than do soy isoflavones.
LinumLife is a shelf-stable powder standardized to 3.5% to 6% lignans, measured as SDG (secoisolariciresinol diglycoside, the main lignan in flax). The product not only obviates the stability problems encountered with other flax ingredients, but also provides 10-30 times more lignans than whole flaxseed or flaxseed oil. LinumLife is produced from flax hulls via a proprietary process that utilizes no solvents, additives, or other chemicals. The ingredient has a neutral, slightly sweet flavor, and because it is highly concentrated and used in only small amounts, has no effect on the flavor profile of finished products, says Laurent Leduc, president of Acatris' North American Health Division, Minneapolis.
Flaxseed is consumed worldwide with regulations on its food use varying between nations. For the U.S., "â€¦no food additive petition has been submitted to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for traditional flaxseed, nor has a formal review of the GRAS status of traditional whole or milled flaxseed been conducted. Basically the GRAS status of flaxseed has been declared by food manufacturers. The FDA has indicated that it has no objection to its use in foods up to 12% flaxseed," according to the Flax Council of Canada.1
Leduc is optimistic about the future of flax in the men's health market. "I feel that flax will do the same for men's health as soy did for the women's health market," he said. "In terms of flax lignans, we are today where soy isoflavones were in the mid-1990's. I think flax has the potential to boom just as soy did.".
Reference:1 Vaisey-Genser, M. and D.H. Morris. 1997. Flaxseed: Health, Nutrition and Functionality. Flax Council of Canada, 63-64.
For more information:Jocelyn Mathern, RD at 952-920-7700