Can Flaxseed Help with Diabetes Management?

Source: Linda Gilmour Kessler, RD 

Diabetes is a disease that results in high blood sugar/glucose levels which damages blood vessels in the body. Blood vessel damage can result in complications such as kidney failure, heart attacks and strokes, amputations, and blindness. People with diabetes can self-manage their condition with guidance and support from their doctor and diabetes team. Controlling blood sugars, blood cholesterol and blood pressure can greatly decrease the risk of developing diabetes complications. 

The Role of Flaxseed in Diabetes

Recent research regarding the benefits of flaxseed to control Type 2 diabetes is limited but promising. It has been well established that ground flaxseed blunts the blood sugar response from meals by lowering the glycemic index (GI) of the meal.

In a 2011 study, a tablespoon (15 mL) of ground flaxseed was added to the diet of people with Type 2 diabetes. After only a month, this lowered fasting blood sugars by 20% and hemoglobin A1C levels, a measure of blood sugar control over time, by 16%. It also lowered total cholesterol by 14%, lowered LDL cholesterol or “bad cholesterol” by 14%, increased HDL cholesterol or “good cholesterol” by 12% and lowered triglycerides by 18%.  

The Bottom Line

While research is still limited, it appears that ground flaxseed is beneficial for improving Type 2 diabetes control in coordination with conventional diabetes management plans. Ground flaxseed can easily be incorporated into meals and snacks. For example, a tablespoon or two (15 to 30 mL) can be added to a smoothie or sprinkled on cereal or a salad. 

For more information on flaxseed and diabetes, check out our Diabetes and Obesity factsheet >

References: 
1.    U. V. Mani, I. Mani, M. Biswas, S. N. Kumar. An open-label study on the effect of flax seed powder (Linum usitatissimum) supplementation in the management of diabetes mellitus. J Diet Suppl 2011 8(3):257 - 265
2.   Flaxseed vs. Diabetes, NutritionFacts.org:  

 
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