Lignans are polyphenolic compounds found in a wide variety of plant-based foods. They are a large group of low molecular weight precursors to phytoestrogens that play a vital role in defending plants and their seeds against herbivores.
These polyphenols are the main reason most dietary guidelines advise people to have an abundance of plant-based meals. Lignans make up a significant percentage of the micronutrient and antioxidant content of our food. Hence, these can help in the prevention of cardiovascular disorders and even cancer.
Traditionally, the presence of lignans in food is closely associated with a lowered risk of heart diseases, menopausal difficulties and even osteoporosis. There is remarkable evidence highlighting the role of these bioactive lignans in promoting human health and eliminating chances of chronic illnesses.
There are two main types of lignans currently available in the market, both of which come with their properties and benefits.
1. Flaxseed lignans, also known as Flax hull (SDG) lignans.
2. Norwegian Spruce tree lignans; also called HMR lignans.
Norwegian Spruce leaves
Flaxseeds (Linum usitatissimum) have been prised for their health-enhancing properties for centuries. They are considered an effective ‘superfood’ that is packed with nutrients and minerals. Flaxseed was first cultivated in Babylon as early as 3000 BC.
Now, several centuries later, dietary experts recommend it for its high lignin content. Flaxseed contains almost 800 times more lignans than other plant-based foods.
This particularly high lignan content is in the form of SDG (secoisolariciresinol diglucoside), SECO and matairesinol, to be precise. The SDG in flaxseed lignin is converted by the bacteria present in the human colon into enterodiol and enterolactone.
Studies have shown that flaxseed, its lignans and enterolactone come together to offer excellent anticancer activity in vitro, tested on animal and human models. Moreover, randomized controlled testing has evaluated a considerable effect of flaxseed lignin on tumor tissue markers.
The Norwegian spruce (Norway Spruce) is native to Central and Eastern Europe. It is a large, pyramidal tree with long, cylindrical cones hanging from dropping branches against lush, green foliage. The sun-loving tree stands 50 to 80-feet tall and is often used to improve the landscape.
The lignans derived from Norwegian spruce, also called Picea abies, form a large part of the dietary phytoestrogens content for Asian and Western diets. It is a direct enterolactone precursor and even considered an excellent dietary supplement by health experts.
Norwegian spruce lignans are especially of the 7-hydroxymatairesinol compounds family. When taken as capsules or in fortified foods, it can effectively boost your hormonal activity. It eases the symptoms of menopause and supports healthy cardiovascular and breast tissue functioning.
The main features of Flaxseed lignans include:
· Contain Essential Omega-3s.
· Made with Organic Flax Oil.
· Cardiovascular Support.
· Ingredients: Flaxseed oil, soft gel (gelatin, glycerine, water) and sorbitol sorbitan solution.
The main features of Norwegian spruce lignan supplements include:
· HMR Lignan 7-HMR lignan.
· Natural Hormone Support.
· Helps Balance Estrogen, Cortisol and Testosterone.
· Ingredients: HMR lignans (40 mg), microcrystalline cellulose, vegetarian capsule (cellulose, water).
The main active ingredient of the Flaxseed lignan is secoisolariciresinol diglucoside. The SDG flax hull can be metabolized by the bacteria colonizing your intestinal lining and converted into enterolactone and enterodiol. Enterolactone is a major active mammalian lignan that is naturally found in the mammalian body tissues. Enterodiol is formed in our gastrointestinal tract by bacteria that consume the SDG lignan.
On the other hand, the active ingredient of Norwegian Spruce lignan is s 7-hydroxymatairesinol (also called HMR). The Norwegian spruce tree yields high amounts of HMR lignan, which can have tremendous effects on our general health. Upon ingestion, HMR is directly converted by the gastrointestinal microbes into enterolactone; the major endogenous mammalian lignan.
An essential point to consider is that HMR produces higher content of enterolactone than the SDG flax hull. This is because SDG forms two different components, enterolactone and enterodiol. The enterodiol produced is less bioactive and not as effective for the mammalian tissues.
As discussed above, SDG lignan is metabolized into two different compounds. Sugar chains of the lignan need to be broken down by the intestinal bacteria before the mammalian lignans can be released into our system. Due to this extra step required for the metabolism of SDG flax hull, reports suggest that it makes it less efficient than the Norwegian spruce lignans that are directly metabolized, releasing a high enterolactone content into your bloodstream.
Studies show that HMR lignan remains in adequate concentrations in your bloodstream for about 24 hours. Hence, you only need a single dosage per day, of 10mg to 40 mg, to benefit from the health properties of Norwegian spruce lignans. Furthermore, the HMR lignan is readily and fully absorbed within the GI tract. This ensures a higher bioavailability and more rapid uptake of the lignan.
While still quite beneficial for our health, the SDG lignans aren’t completely absorbed into the bloodstream. This means several doses of more than 500 mg need to be taken per day to reach the minimum required levels.
Flaxseed lignans contain a significant fiber component, which can increase stool frequency. For people with a sensitive stomach, it can even result in occasional diarrhea and dehydration.
However, Norwegian spruce lignans have a negligible fiber content thus has no research-proven adverse side effects so far.
Flaxseed lignans are more commonly available in the market and are prescribed more frequently than Norwegian spruce lignans. However, that is solely due to their increased availability and popularity as a superfood.
If we strictly focus on their features, the benefits lay heavier for Norwegian spruce lignans as they are required in lower doses, have greater benefits and cause no adverse reactions. The same can't be said for flaxseed lignans, unfortunately.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Beatrice Williams is a writer and a fitness-nutrition enthusiast who swears by the organic way of life. When she’s not busy researching and experimenting with organic recipes, she devotes her free time to her best friend, her dog, Oscar.