This Common Superfood Might Lower Breast Cancer Risk — By Helping Your Gut

Flaxseed has been linked to reduced breast cancer risk for years, according to studies. Now, new research in Microbiology Spectrum has found that this important connection may have something to do with your gut.

First, some background. Flaxseed contains lignans, which are “fiber-associated compounds” found in plants and common foods like grains, nuts, seeds, vegetables, coffee, and tea, per research. They’re most highly concentrated in flaxseed. In the study, which involved young female mice, scientists found that these lignans impacted the relationship between microorganisms in your gut and the expression of mammary (milk-producing) gland microRNAs (aka miRNAs). The study found that some of these miRNAs have an effect on genes involved in breast cancer.

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In the study, researchers analyzed how the lignans in flaxseed impacted the microbiota of the mice subjects. What they found was that, in processing the lignans, microbes in the gut released bioactive metabolites, which are “small-molecule chemicals produced during metabolism that influence physiology and disease,” the researchers wrote. In this case, that influence involved “antitumor effects.” Bringing it all together, the researchers concluded that “the microbiota and mammary gland miRNA are related and that flaxseed lignans modify the relationship to be non-cancer-causing.”

“If these findings are confirmed, the microbiota becomes a new target to prevent breast cancer through dietary intervention,” said Elena M. Comelli, associate professor at the University of Toronto and co-author of the paper, per Newswise.

It’s yet another reason to boost your diet with flaxseed, which is also packed with fiber to help with digestion and omega-3 fatty acids that can improve your cardiovascular health, per Mayo Clinic. We recommend adding a tablespoon or so of ground flaxseed to cereal, oatmeal, yogurt, baked goods (like bread, muffins, and cookies), or even mixing it into sandwich dressings. As more research into flaxseed and reducing breast cancer risk continues, it’s a good idea to sprinkle it into your diet when you can.

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