Benefits of Flaxseed Meal for Weight Loss

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“Benefits of Flaxseed Meal for Weight Loss” Canada now allows a health claim on
the labels of products with flaxseeds, saying that we know
with sufficient certainty that flaxseeds do indeed help
lower cholesterol levels. The products have to
contain two tablespoons and have to be relatively
healthy in the first place, so they can’t like boasting about
the cholesterol-lowering effects of a flaxseed-enriched
meatball or something. Such claims are based
on studies like this: double-blind, randomized,
placebo-controlled trials. Wait, how do you come
up with placebo food? I mean there are
sugar pills for drugs, but how can you slip spoonfuls
of flax past someone? The researchers made all these special
products, snack bars, muffins, and bagels so the research subjects unknowingly
would be getting tablespoons of ground flaxseeds, or just
tablespoons of the control, whole wheat. And they did this for a year! No one knew who got which muffins
until the code was broken at the end. And the dietary flaxseed group saw
a 15% reduction in LDL cholesterol as early as one month into the trial
but only fell significantly lower than the whole wheat group in those
on cholesterol-lowering drugs.

In those off-drugs, the whole wheat
group’s cholesterol went down too, diminishing the efficacy
of the flax in comparison. That’s why food placebos are so hard.
Like in this study. The reason they give for doing a so-called
“open-label” study where the study group is aware that they’re eating
flax seeds because they couldn’t come up with
an inert placebo for flaxseeds. I mean, whole wheat
flour is a whole grain; it could be beneficial
in its own right, and white flour could make the
control group look even worse. So what they did in this study
was that overweight patients were randomly assigned to receive either lifestyle advice and
daily ground flaxseeds or just lifestyle advice
alone as the control group. And, not surprisingly, body
weight, waist circumference, and body mass index decreased
significantly in both groups.

Even without the lifestyle advice,
just enrolling people in a study where you know they’re
going to keep weighing you can get people to lose weight, though there was a
significantly greater reduction in the flaxseed group,
and not just by a little. The control group that just got
lifestyle advice over 12 weeks lost nearly seven pounds
and an inch off their waist. But the group that got the same
advice plus spoonfuls of flax a day— so, in effect, given more food to eat—
lost over 20 pounds on average over the same period and cut nearly
four inches off their waist. Those are extraordinary
numbers for an intervention that added rather than actively
removed calories from the diet. Was that just some crazy fluke? How about flaxseed supplementation
for non-alcoholic fatty liver disease? Thanks to the obesity epidemic, that’s
now the most common liver disease, recognized as a major public
health problem around the world.

A high-fat diet is the
most common cause, but flaxseed fat may be better,
compared to lard. Well, that’s not very helpful,
so let’s put it to the test. Same as last time, lifestyle modification
advice with or without flaxseeds. They were told to just mix it
with water and juice and drink it down after
breakfast, and… body weight went down, along with
liver inflammation and scarring and fat inside the liver in both groups,
but better in the flaxseed group. And again, that extraordinary
20-pound weight loss, telling people to add
something to their diet. So maybe that first study wasn’t
a fluke, or maybe they both were.

There have been dozens of randomized,
controlled trials of flaxseeds and weight loss, and as you can
see most were more equivocal. Here are those two recent
20-pound weight loss studies, which appear to be the outliers. But still, put all the studies together
and you do see a significant reduction in body weight, BMI, and waistline
following flaxseed supplementation in randomized controlled trials, though one would expect more like two
pounds of weight loss rather than 20. $9.⁹⁹ / mo. $8.⁹⁹ / mo. Billed $26.⁹⁹
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