The lead researcher of the Duke University study admitted in an interview that they had originally planned to study fish oil but switched to flax seed after the male subjects complained they "were burping it up and saying they tasted fish" [source: Garvin].
Flax Seed and Prostate Cancer
One out of every six American men will develop prostate cancer, according to the American Cancer Society. And every year, about 27,000 men will die from it [source: Science Daily].
Because studies have shown a link between a lack of omega-3 and prostate cancer, some health experts believe taking flax seed oil can give men the essential fatty acids they need to prevent prostate inflammation and related problems of male impotence and infertility [source: Herb Wisdom]. But the studies on flax seed's effectiveness for treating prostate cancer have yielded conflicting results.
In one study at Duke University, a sample of men already diagnosed with prostate cancer who were scheduled to have their prostates removed were given three tablespoons of flax meal a day for a month prior to surgery. The control group didn't receive any. The study found the group taking flax had lower rates of cell division, and higher rates of cancer cell death [source: Schardt].
But a larger study at the National Cancer Institute found that high levels of omega-3 might actually advance prostate cancer. In that study, researchers analyzed the diets of 48,000 men over 14 years, including 3,000 who developed prostate cancer. Those who had the highest levels of ALA in their diets were also those with the most advanced cases of prostate cancer [source: Thompson]. Other studies have reached the same conclusion that ALA stimulates growth of prostate cancer cells [source: Erasmus].
But some experts note that ALA -- not flax seed -- was singled out as the culprit in these studies. They dispute the results, saying that tests involving isolated fatty acids in the lab don't always reflect how our bodies react when the fatty acids are eaten in whole foods that contain thousands of other nutrients. [source: Erasmus].
For now, the debate continues. But read on to find out what researchers do agree on -- flax seed and skin care.