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Nutr Cancer. 1999;33(2):154-8.

Flaxseed and lignans increase cecal beta-glucuronidase activity in rats.

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  • 1Department of Nutritional Sciences, University of Toronto, ON, Canada.


Flaxseed has been shown in previous studies to decrease some early markers of colon cancer risk in part because of its lignans. This study determined whether the intake of flaxseed and lignans is related to the activity of bacterial beta-glucuronidase, an enzyme suggested to increase colon cancer risk. Seven groups of six female rats each were fed, for four weeks, a basal high-fat (20%) diet (BD), BD supplemented with 2.5%, 5.0%, or 10.0% flaxseed, or BD with daily gavage of 0.75, 1.5, or 3.0 mg of secoisolariciresinol diglycoside (SDG), the major mammalian lignan precursor. The specific and total activities of beta-glucuronidase in the cecum were significantly related to the levels of flaxseed (r = 0.539, p < 0.008 and r = 0.599, p < 0.002, respectively) and SDG (r = 0.567, p < 0.007 and r = 0.435, p < 0.04, respectively). The urinary mammalian lignan excretion also increased with increasing flaxseed or SDG levels and thus was significantly related to the specific activity (r = 0.38, p < 0.017) and total activity (r = 0.429, p < 0.007) of beta-glucuronidase. Because flaxseed and lignans are colon cancer protective, it is concluded that, in contrast to other studies, beta-glucuronidase activity may play a beneficial role in their presence by increasing mammalian lignan absorption and enterohepatic circulation.

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