Diabetes diet: Eat flaxseeds to control blood sugar

The seeds help manage blood sugar levels, and together with lifestyle changes and medication as required, can help diabetics more easily manage their disease.

Also known as linseeds, flaxseeds can improve insulin sensitivity. As they keep blood glucose stable, diabetics should experience less major spikes throughout the day.

This blood sugar-lowering effect is due to flaxseeds’ insoluble fibre content, reports medical website Healthline.

Healthline cites several studies which have found that people with type 2 diabetes who added 10-20 grams of flaxseed powder to their daily diet for at least one month saw reductions of up to 20 per cent in blood sugar levels.

Diabetes Daily notes a Canadian study that showed subjects who consumed 50g of flaxseed in meals for four weeks experienced a 27 per cent reduction in blood sugar levels after eating.

Flaxseeds can also help prevent diabetes complications like heart disease and stroke, due to the high levels of omega-3 fatty acids.

Benefits of eating flax seeds and flaxseed oil if you have diabetes

Both flax seeds and flaxseed oil have been shown to have a positive effect on diabetes, as they may improve many of its risk factors.

Flax seeds may promote blood sugar control

Maintaining healthy blood sugar levels is crucial for people with diabetes, and fiber plays a major role in achieving this.

Due to their high fiber content, flax seeds are considered a low-glycemic food. This means that consuming them won’t spike your blood sugar levels and instead cause them to rise steadily, promoting blood sugar control.

This effect can partly be attributed to their soluble fiber content, specifically mucilage gums, which slow food digestion and decrease the absorption of certain nutrients like sugar (49).

One 4-week study in 29 people with type 2 diabetes found that consuming 10 grams of flaxseed powder per day reduced fasting blood sugar by 19.7%, compared with the control group (10).

Similarly, in a 3-month study in 120 people with type 2 diabetes, those who consumed 5 grams of flaxseed gum daily with their food experienced a fasting blood sugar reduction of about 12%, compared with a control group (11).

What’s more, a 12-week study in people with prediabetes — those who are at risk of developing type 2 diabetes — observed similar results in those who consumed 2 tablespoons (13 grams) of ground flax seeds daily (12).

Though flax seeds seem to benefit blood sugar control, research shows that the same cannot be said for flaxseed oil (1314).

Flax seeds and flaxseed oil may improve insulin sensitivity

Insulin is the hormone that regulates blood sugar.

If your body has difficulties responding to insulin, it requires greater amounts of it to lower your blood sugar levels. This is called insulin resistance, and it’s a risk factor for type 2 diabetes (1).

Meanwhile, insulin sensitivity refers to how sensitive your body is to insulin. Improving it can help prevent and treat type 2 diabetes (15).

Flax seeds contain high amounts of lignan, which acts as a powerful antioxidant. Antioxidants are believed to improve insulin sensitivity and slow the development of diabetes (416).

The lignans in flax seeds predominantly consist of secoisolariciresinol diglucoside (SDG). Animal studies suggest that SDG has the potential to improve insulin sensitivity and delay the development of both type 1 and 2 diabetes (31718).

Still, human studies have not been able to confirm this effect, and further research is needed (1619).

On the other hand, ALA from flaxseed oil has also been linked to improved insulin sensitivity in both animals and humans.

In fact, one 8-week study in 16 people with obesity observed an increase in insulin sensitivity after they received a daily oral dose of ALA in supplement form (20).

Similarly, studies in rats with insulin resistance found that supplementing with flaxseed oil improved insulin sensitivity in a dose-dependent manner, meaning that the larger the dose, the greater the improvement (212223).

May reduce your risk of heart disease

Diabetes is a risk factor for heart disease and stroke, and both flax seeds and flaxseed oil have been shown to help protect against these conditions for multiple reasons, including their fiber, SDG, and ALA contents (242526).

Soluble fibers like the mucilage gum in flax seeds have cholesterol-lowering properties.

That’s because their capacity to form a gel-like substance affects fat metabolism, thus decreasing cholesterol’s absorption (27).

One 7-day study in 17 people found that flaxseed fiber lowered total cholesterol by 12% and LDL (bad) cholesterol by 15%, compared with the control group (28).

Additionally, flax seeds’ main lignan SDG acts as both an antioxidant and a phytoestrogen — a plant-based compound that imitates the hormone estrogen.

While antioxidants have cholesterol-lowering properties, phytoestrogens play an important role in blood pressure reduction (2930).

One 12-week study in 30 men with high blood cholesterol levels determined that those who received 100 mg of SDG experienced a decrease in LDL (bad) cholesterol levels, compared with the control group (31).

Finally, the omega-3 fatty acid ALA also has potent anti-inflammatory effects.

Research suggests that it may help treat — and even regress — clogged arteries, which are a risk factor for stroke (3233).

What’s more, studies in people with high blood pressure have found promising results when participants consumed about 4 tablespoons (30 grams) of milled flax seeds per day.

They observed a reduction of 10–15 mm Hg and 7 mm Hg in systolic and diastolic blood pressure (the top and bottom numbers of the reading), respectively, compared with the control groups (3435).

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