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J Nutr. 1996 Aug;126(8):2012-9.

Dose-dependent production of mammalian lignans in rats and in vitro from the purified precursor secoisolariciresinol diglycoside in flaxseed.

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Department of Nutritional Sciences, Faculty of Medicine, University of Toronto, Ontario, Canada.


The mammalian lignans enterodiol (ED) and enterolactone (EL) produced from colonic bacterial action on dietary precursors have exhibited anticarcinogenic effects in vitro. The major lignan precursor in flaxseed (a rich source) has been identified as secoisolariciresinol diglycoside (SDG). The purpose of this study was to first isolate SDG and determine whether 1) SDG accounted for all the lignan production from flaxseed; 2) this production was dose-related; and 3) a relationship between in vitro production and in vivo urinary excretion existed. Extraction of flaxseed with dioxane:ethanol (1:1, v/v) followed by chromatographic separations yielded the purified SDG. Rats were fed a high fat diet without/with 2.5, 5 or 10 g/100g ground flaxseed or 1.1, 2.2 or 4.4 micromol SDG/d (equivalent to levels in the respective flaxseed diets) for 4 wk. In vitro lignan production was assessed by fermenting flaxseed or SDG for 24 h with human fecal inoculum. Urinary lignan excretion increased linearly with doses from 0-5% flaxseed and 0-2.2 micromol SDG/d followed by a plateau, indicating a threshold response. When all doses were considered, a curvilinear relationship was observed. A similar trend was seen in vitro for SDG, resulting in a high correlation between in vitro production and in vivo excretion of lignans (r = 0.990, P < 0.02). Thus in vivo response can be predicted with confidence based on in vitro results. Theoretical urinary ED + EL from the SDG present in flaxseed correlated with the actual excretion in flaxseed-fed animals (r = 0.655, P < 0.005). However, urinary ED + EL of SDG-fed rats was only 20% of levels of flaxseed-fed rats, indicating the presence of other precursors or incomplete conversion of SDG to ED and EL.

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