Adding flaxseed to the diets of people with peripheral arterial disease resulted in average drops in blood pressure of 10 mm HG systolic and 7 mm Hg diastolic after six months in a double-blind, placebo-controlled study. Findings were presented in November at the American Heart Association’s scientific sessions in Los Angeles.

“We expect that this kind of improvement in people with hypertension could reduce their incidence of heart attack and stroke by 50%,” says Grant Pierce, leader of the study and executive director of research at St. Boniface Hospital in Winnipeg.

The study involved 110 patients with peripheral arterial disease. Fifty-eight ate 30 grams of milled flaxseed a day in the form of bagels, muffins and buns while 52 ate placebo products made from wheat with a similar flavor.

“Consumers have embraced flax for decades, but they are not always aware of its many health benefits,” says William Hill, president of the Flax Council of Canada, Winnipeg. “Research like this lends scientific support to what the flax industry and nutritionists have been saying all along, that flax has an important role to play in the health of individuals.”

The Canadian Centre for Agri-Food Research in Health and Medicine centered at St. Boniface Hospital led the study. Funding was provided by the Flax Council of Canada, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Canada Bread, the Agri-Food Research and Development Initiative, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and St. Boniface Hospital Foundation.