UK flaxseed market set for revolution?

By Alex McNally

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Lignan, Omega-3 fatty acid

British based Nutrition Geeks is using a raft of scientific studies
to help it promote flaxseed supplements, which it says is primed
for a renaissance in the UK.

The firm launched in March this year as a supplier of dietary supplements and prides itself on supplying a high potency flax lignan, produced on rainwater fed farms in North Dakota, America. Director Don Maree said he was interested in targeting the UK market because it was behind Europe in terms of flaxseed awareness and did not offer many high potency products. He told that the "flax revolution in this country is starting​" and added that Nutrition Geeks is about to embark on a marketing campaign primarily aimed at people in the health care industry, to promote the seed and the lignan in Britain. The market value of flaxseed as an over-the-counter supplement has increased in the UK from £1.5m in 2001 to £2.4m in 2006, according to figures from Euromonitor. Studies so far carried out by North Dakota State University and Medallion Labs have found the lignan to have a positive effect on diabetes, lupus, kidney disorder and breast, colon and prostate cancer. It is not the first time a company in the flaxseed and lignan market has announced the need for publicising the benefits of supplementation. Manufacturers Acatris and Archer Daniel Midland (ADM) founded a new trade association to support the science behind standardized flax lignan ingredients and protect them from the risk to their credibility posed by unscrupulous suppliers. It is a clear sign that the industry has not given up on trying to push the potential of flaxseed. Maree said the promotion of lignan will then "filter down to the public."​ He said: "Already it is being used by athletes who are starting to realise the health benefits."​ Scientific documentation on the purity of the product has come back with positive results from heavy metal tests. These tests are important, Maree said, because the seeds have an ability to leach metals from the ground. The company also boasts that its product is extracted mechanically, which limits the exposure to harmful materials which is associated with chemical extraction. Flaxseed - which is also supplied by Nutrition Geeks - is one of the best sources of vegetarian omega-3 in the form of alpha linolenic acid, which has been studied for its role in heart, immune, and joint health, as well as for maintaining good skin. The lignan has also been linked to reducing the risk of breast cancer for pre-menopausal women by 78 per cent in a study last year. Lignans are well-known phytoestrogens - active substances derived from plants that have a weak oestrogen-like action that have been linked before to breast health, as well as benefits for postmenopausal women. Nutrition Geeks will be aiming their flax at women in their 40s, 50s and 60s. To date, the firm is particularly proud of the 100 per cent Organic High Sdg lignan which it says is one of the most potent forms of flax lignan available on the market with a high content of secoisolariciresinol digluscside (SDG) - a plant lignan isolated from flaxseed The market for flax lignans grew by 20 percent in 2004, and the specialist retail market is believed to be worth around $50 million at present. Maree added: "It should be regarded as a superfood. I think it will take two to three years before it becomes really big in the UK.​"

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