Study just released
Flaxseed compound may delay diabetes in adults, Prasad finds
A tiny compound in flaxseed may help prevent or significantly delay the development of diabetes in adults, says U of S researcher Dr. Kailash Prasad.
In a just-published rat study, Prasad of the College of Medicine physiology department, found that a certain flax lignan reduces development of adult-onset (type 2) diabetes by 80 per cent and delays the development of the disease significantly. The study is carried in the July issue of the Journal of Laboratory and Clinical Medicine (Vol.138, pages 32-39, 2001).
The main component of flaxseed that has potential benefit for diabetes and other diseases is a tiny fraction of the seed - a small organic molecule called secoisolariciresinol diglucoside (SDG), Prasad found. Flaxseed is the richest natural source of SDG plant lignan.
Plans are to conduct human trials on SDG in diabetes treatment in the near future, he said.
The finding builds on Prasads previously published studies in two animal models of type 1 diabetes which showed that SDG reduces development of the juvenile form of diabetes (type 1) by 71 per cent and 75 per cent respectively.
Prasad has shown that both type 1 and type 2 diabetes are associated with oxidative stress (increases in toxic metabolites of oxygen known as oxygen free radicals), and that SDG is effective in reducing the development of diabetes through its antioxidant activity.
In other published animal studies, Prasad has identified SDG as the compound in flaxseed that accounts for a reduction in the development of hypercholesterolemic atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries due to high cholesterol levels). (See attached backgrounder for more details on his findings.)
"The SDG compound has great potential for the prevention and treatment of both diabetes and hypercholesterolemic atherosclerosis," says Prasad. "This compound has the ability to lower total cholesterol and to raise HDL-cholesterol (good cholesterol) in the blood."
With the help of University of Saskatchewan Technologies Inc., Prasad has obtained a patent for the use of SDG in the prevention and treatment of both diabetes and hypercholesterolemic atherosclerosis. Other patents are pending.
Prasad stresses that patients would have to consume very large amounts of whole flaxseed to get enough SDG to provide the equivalent beneficial effect found in the animal studies. Drawbacks to doing this would also include high caloric content (flaxseed is 35 per cent oil) and a laxative effect.
For that reason, scientists with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada in Saskatoon have developed a method for isolating SDG from flax meal for experimental and clinical uses. Patents have also been obtained for this work.
Recently, Prasad, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, and other members of a research group called the Flax Consortium licensed their patents to U.S. agricultural processor Archer Daniels Midland (ADM).
This move paves the way for the production and marketing of the SDG flax lignan as an active ingredient in pharmaceuticals, nutraceuticals, animal feed additives and veterinary products.
Over the past few years, Prasad has published papers on the potential benefits of flaxseed or flax lignan SDG not just for diabetes, but also for endotoxic shock (general cardiovascular collapse due to an overwhelming infection) and atherosclerosis.:
* In a study of animals on high-cholesterol diets, Prasad has found that SDG reduced the formation of fatty deposits by 73 per cent compared to untreated groups on a high-cholesterol diet. As well, the so-called "bad" cholesterol declined and the "good" or protective cholesterol increased.
* Prasad has shown that flaxseed is effective in reducing hypercholesterolemic atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries due to high cholesterol) because of SDGs antioxidant activity the ability to remove toxic metabolites of oxygen known as oxygen free radicals.
He showed that the compound SDG has antioxidant activity. He theorizes that oxygen free radicals damage the lining of the blood vessels and set the stage for development of atherosclerosis.
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