The effects of dietary flaxseed on atherosclerotic plaque regression

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Francis, Andrew Anthony
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Dietary flaxseed intake has exhibited both cardioprotective and anti-atherogenic properties. Regardless, it remains unclear whether these beneficial effects extent to the regression of atherosclerotic plaques or the resolution of cholesterol-induced vascular contractile dysfunction. In the present study, we intended to determine whether dietary flaxseed has the capacity to ameliorate vascular function abnormalities and induce atherosclerotic plaque regression. As results from previous studies using a nutritional intervention to induce atherosclerotic regression may have been confounded by premature initiation of the intervention, an appropriate feeding regimen was developed to adequately evaluate flaxseeds’ effects on atherosclerotic plaque regression. New Zealand white rabbits were utilized in two studies. To establish clear evidence of plaque growth stabilization, animals received 4 weeks of a 1% cholesterol-supplemented diet. An initial subset of animals was immediately examined. The remaining animals were fed regular rabbit chow and examined at intervals up to 28 weeks. To ascertain flaxseeds’ effects on atherosclerotic plaque regression and vascular contractile function, animals were randomly assigned to a control group fed a regular diet for 12 weeks (Group I) or an experimental group fed a 1% cholesterol-supplemented diet for 4 weeks followed by a regular diet for 8 weeks (Group II). The control and a subset of experimental animals were examined immediately afterwards. The remaining experimental animals were given an additional 8 or 14 weeks of either a regular diet (Group III and V, respectively) or a 10% flaxseed-supplemented diet (Group IV and VI, respectively) and were examined afterwards. Cholesterol feeding followed by 8 weeks of withdrawal from cholesterol not only resulted in the development and stabilization of atherosclerotic plaques but also impaired the maximum contraction caused by norepinephrine and the relaxation response to acetylcholine. An additional 14 weeks of regular diet reduced the amount of plaques on the aorta while flax-supplementation resulted in a further reduction in plaques. Nevertheless, both treatments were unable to achieve statistical significance. Flax- supplemented and regular diets improved vessel relaxation and contraction; however, negligible changes in the relaxation response induced by sodium nitroprusside were observed. Dietary flaxseed may accelerate the regression of atherosclerotic plaques. Moreover, the known beneficial effects of flaxseed do not extend to restoration of vascular function.
Atherosclerosis, Flaxseed, Regression