A new study has shown that women with increased intake of lignans, found in foods like flax seeds, tend to have a lower body mass index (BMI) and less total body fat mass.
Researchers looked at post-menopausal women and found that those who had the highest blood levels of enterolactone, a lignan metabolite, had a BMI 4 kg/m2 less than women with the lowest average blood levels. They also had 8.5 kg less body fat.
Therefore, a high intake of lignans was associated with lower body fat mass and BMI.
Moreover, women with the highest average blood levels of enterolactone had improved glucose disposal rates and significantly lower blood glucose levels, compared to women with the lowest average blood levels.
Morisset, S et al. "Impact of a lignan-rich diet on adiposity and insulin sensitivity in post-menopausal women" British Journal of nutrition 2009 Published online ahead of print.
"There has been a growing interest in lignans, a class of phyto-oestrogens, because of their potentially favourable effects on human health. The aim of the present study was to compare the metabolic profile of post-menopausal women consuming various amounts of dietary lignans...
In conclusion, women with the highest enterolactone concentrations had a better metabolic profile including higher insulin sensitivity and lower adiposity measures."
Lignans are a group of chemical compounds found in plants, the best source is flax seeds, and other good sources are whole grain cereals, berries, vegetables and fruits. They are metabolised in the colon into the two beneficial substances enterodiol and enterolactone.
Lignans are one of the major classes of phytoestrogens, which act like a weak form of estrogen and also act as antioxidants. Previous research has focused on plant lignans, especially the two metabolites enterodiol and enterolactone, as reducing the risk of prostate and breast cancer, and in improving menopause health. This new research adds to the list of potential health benefits of this plant compound.