Dietary lignans: physiology and potential for cardiovascular disease risk reduction

January 1, 2010 Human Health and Nutrition Data 0 Comments

Dietary lignans: physiology and potential for cardiovascular disease risk reduction

Year: 2010
Authors: Peterson, J. Dwyer, J. Adlercreutz, H. Scalbert, A. Jacques, P. McCullough, M.L.
Publication Name: Nutrition Reviews
Publication Details: Volume 68; Number 10; Pages 571 – 603.


The present review of the literature on lignan physiology and lignan intervention and epidemiological studies was conducted to determine if lignans decrease the risks of cardiovascular disease in Western populations. Five intervention studies using flaxseed lignan supplements indicated beneficial associations with C-reactive protein, and a meta-analysis that included these studies also suggested lignans have a lowering effect on plasma total and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol. Three intervention studies using sesamin supplements indicated possible lipid- and blood pressure-lowering associations. Eleven human observational epidemiological studies examined dietary intakes of lignans in relation to cardiovascular disease risk. Five showed decreased risk with either increasing dietary intakes of lignans or increased levels of serum enterolactone (an enterolignan used as a biomarker of lignan intake), five studies were of borderline significance, and one was null. The associations between lignans and decreased risk of cardiovascular disease are promising, but they are yet not well established, perhaps due to low lignan intakes in habitual Western diets. At the higher doses used in intervention studies, associations were more evident. (Authors abstract)
This paper provides a review of lignans, bioactive, non-nutrient, non-caloric, phenolic plant compounds that are found in the highest concentrations in flax. The enterolignans (sometimes referred to as mammalian lignans) are metabolites of food lignans produced by human intestinal bacteria. They have been identified in human urine and plasma. The paper provides an overview of the weak estrogenic and other biochemical properties of lignans. Further the paper describes the chemistry and biosynthesis of lignans in plants (including flaxseed), the major food sources of lignans, their metabolism in humans, and recent studies of their associations with cardiovascular disease biomarkers, events, and mortality in humans. The authors suggest that there is initial but not yet compelling evidence from epidemiological studies that lignans present in the very small quantities typical of usual Western diets decrease coronary heart disease and cardiovascular disease mortality. More research is needed to these associations. Intervention studies using higher doses have found positive associations with some cardiovascular risk factors. The investigators also indicate that it is important to elucidate whether doses found in foods or only the larger doses that might be delivered in dietary supplements offer protection. (Editors comments)

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