Dr. Lilian Thompson, Professor Emeritus in the Department of Nutritional Sciences, University of Toronto, recently reviewed the studies in a chapter of the book, “The Encyclopedia of Dietary Supplements.”
The animal studies, she says, have shown flaxseed is protective against prostate cancer but the epidemiological studies—that is, studies of populations—have been less conclusive.
Two clinical trials, however, have shown clear benefits. In one, men awaiting surgery and fed 30 grams of ground flaxseed daily for just over a month had lower tumor cell proliferation and higher tumor cell suicide rates. A follow up study using the same dose showed a significant reduction in cancer cell proliferation (but no effect on cell suicide or other indicators.) Flaxseed “warrants further testing as a preventive or complementary therapy for prostate cancer,” the authors conclude.
So until then, what’s a man to do? Talk to a well-informed doctor, of course, and weigh the benefits and risks. As a journalist, I can merely arm you with anti-cancer info; the rest is up to you and your health care team.
p.s. UPDATE I recently spoke with Dr. Wendy Demark-Wahnefried, who did the clinical trials on prostate cancer, and asked her if she thought it reasonable for all men to eat 30 grams (3 T) of ground flaxseed daily. Her response? Some men cannot metabolize omega 3 fats; those would not see benefits. The majority of folks, however, can. And in both cases, there seems to be no harm.
The bottom line: Get yourself a coffee grinder and some brown flaxseed, and grind it daily. Keep the flax refrigerated for optimal performance. And drink plenty of water to help it move through your system.
p.p.s And if you’re a tiny man, my gut says to decrease the dose. Your gut might agree.