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About Sickkids
About SickKids

June 5, 2013

Flaxseed fails to deliver in new study

bowl of flax seeds

By Nino Meese-Tamuri

Flaxseed may be one of the latest food crazes, but is it really the “superfood” some claim it to be? A recent study by The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) published in the journal JAMA Pediatrics suggests that kids with high cholesterol may not benefit from eating flaxseed.

The study asked 32 participants between the age of 8 and 18 to help determine the cholesterol lowering benefit of a daily intake of 30 grams of flaxseed. Children with high levels of the “bad” cholesterol LDL and a family history of high cholesterol ate the flaxseed in the form of two muffins and one slice of bread per day for a total of four weeks. Compared to a control group, the results failed to show a significant lowering of cholesterol levels of at least 10 per cent. Instead, it was found that triglyceride levels actually increased and “good” cholesterol HDL levels decreased in participants. This puts the benefit of flaxseed supplements for children further in doubt. However, no other health risks or symptoms were associated with taking flaxseed supplements.

“Functional foods and complementary therapies need to be evaluated with the same degree of rigor as conventional medical therapies,” said the study’s senior author Dr. Brian McCrindle, Cardiologist and Senior Scientist at SickKids and Professor in the department of Paediatrics at the University of Toronto.

Traditionally, children with high cholesterol are advised to seek a more active lifestyle and healthier nutrition. For those with very high levels of cholesterol, cholesterol lowering drugs may be rarely needed.         

This study was supported by a research grant from the Labatt Family Innovation Fund and SickKids Foundation.