"This study shows remarkable potential for the inclusion of HMR in a cardiovascular protective regimen," said researcher Marco Cosentino from the University of Insubria in Italy. The data has been released by Switzerland-based Linnea, and indicates that the lignan (7-hydroxymatairesinol) was effective in reducing production of tumour necrosis factor (TNF)-alpha, a marker for inflammation by about 88 per cent, and also inhibited the production of reactive oxygen species from a type of white blood cells. Robin Ward, vice president, commercial operations at Linnea told NutraIngredients.com that the full study would be published in a peer-review journal in the autumn, although the journal has not yet been selected. NutraIngredients.com has not seen the full data. Lignans have a weak oestrogen-like activity and in humans 7-hydroxymatairesinol is converted into a mammalian lignan called enterolactone. Epidemiological studies have linked enterolactone to a reduced risk of certain hormone-related health conditions including breast cancer and cardiovascular disease. "These results indicate that HMR and [its metabolite] enterolactone exert effects that may result in reduction of the inflammatory process, known to be a contributing factor in the etiology of heart disease," said Cosentino. "Tumour necrosis factor production by monocytes infiltrating atherosclerotic lesions is a key factor in the genesis and progression of vascular damage, and oxidative stress of the vascular wall sustained by circulating activated [polymorphonuclear leukocytes] PMNs is an early step in the cascade leading to cardiovascular pathology in otherwise asymptomatic individuals," he said. Cosentino and co-workers investigated the anti-inflammatory properties of HMRlignan and enterolactone on the production of TNF-a in the human cell line THP-1, and found a dose-dependent response with increasing concentrations linked to lower TNF-a levels. Indeed, the preliminary data shows that at a dose of 300 micromoles, HMR reduced TNF-a levels by about 88 per cent, while the same concentration of enterolactone led to an approximate 45 per cent reduction. The production of reactive oxygen species, as a measure of fluorescence, also revealed a dose-dependent response with respect to HMRlignan concentration. "The results of this study add to existing data suggesting that higher dietary lignan intake and enterolactone levels in the blood stream correlate with reduced risk of coronary heart disease-related and cardiovascular-disease-related mortality," commented Donald Brown, a leading US expert on evidence-based herbals. Chronic inflammation, brought about by an over-expression or lack of control of the normal protective mechanism, can lead to a range of inflammatory related disease, particularly cardiovascular disease, the leading cause of death in Europe. Ward also revealed that the company is pushing on with further research in this area: "We are currently recruiting for a human clinical in the USA. In the study we will be looking at C Reactive Protein, LDL-cholesterol, HDL-cholesterol, LDL/HDL ratio and antioxidant free radical scavenging capacity in vivo," he said.