Dr Grant Pierce, executive director of St. Boniface Hospital in Winnipeg, has received a $2.1 million ($2.8 million CAD) grant over seven years to extend his research into flaxseed as a nutritional intervention for cardiovascular disease. The funding comes from the Canadian Institute of Health Research (CIHR) – the major funder of health related research in Canada.
Dr Pierce has managed numerous clinical studies focused on flaxseed and is a leading expert on the health effects of the ingredient. Canadian flaxseed supplier Pizzey Ingredients, which is based in Winnipeg, has supplied the flax ingredients used in Pierce’s work.
"This ground breaking research cements the relationship between the unique bio actives in flaxseed and very consequential human health benefits,” said Glenn Pizzey, director of R&D at Pizzey Ingredients. “It also bodes well for the entire flaxseed industry in North America.”
Non diseased population
With the grant Dr Pierce and his team will continue their on-going CIHR clinical trial to determine if flaxseed will lower blood pressure (BP) in patients with high BP but without secondary disease, and also study if flaxseed can delay or reduce the need for anti-hypertensive drugs. Current drugs used to control hypertension are costly, can induce unwanted side-effects and they are not always effective.
“Heart health has certainly been one of the larger areas of research for flaxseed,” Julie Pizzey Faber, director of marketing, told NutraIngredients-USA. Pizzey Faber said industry insiders might recognize the Pizzey name from a former company that the family sold to Glanbia. The present company is a follow-on restarted under the family name, she said.
“Dr Pierce previously did a study on patients with peripheral artery disease and how flaxseed could affect blood pressure in those patients,” she said. “What he’s doing now is taking the next step to see if it can help patients with no sign of disease.”
Whole milled ingredient
Pizzey Faber said that it is not known which constituents of flax have the effects that the research has uncovered. Flaxseed has proteins, lignans, fiber and omega-3s in the form of alpha linolenic acid (ALA). What is known, however, is that the ingredient must be milled to unlock these benefits, as whole flaxseeds resist digestion pretty effectively. And the milling process is the point of differentiation for Pizzey Ingredients’ offerings, Pizzey Faber said. Flax is an old enough oilseed crop that is become fairly standardized, she said, without the wide variations in nutritional content that is seen in other botanicals with less market history, such as chia. As on oilseed, flaxseeds are subject to oxidation and Pizzey Ingredients has come up with a proprietary heat treatment process that extends shelf life, which is guaranteed for up to two years. The process also deals with some of flaxseeds challenging flavor notes. Among these has been an off-putting, paint-like odor that came when flaxseed was cooked with oatmeal.
“If you are just talking about the flaxseed oil, you don’t have that stability. The proteins, fiber and lignans all work together to protect the oil,” she said.
PIzzey Faber said the company has seen broad uptake of the company’s ingredients both as a food additive and as a supplement ingredient. The company has found new application avenues to go with the ingredient's traditional usage in baked goods.
“We are finding tremendous interest in sports nutrition and in beverages. That’s really the hottest market for us right now. Flax is obviously a great clean label ingredient, too; it can be used to replace shortening or to replace items like guar gum. And there is great consumer awareness that flax is good for you,” she said.