Dietary flaxseed meal is more protective than soy protein concentrate against hypertriglyceridemia and steatosis of the liver in an animal model of obesity

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date



Journal of the American College of Nutrition








Cholesterol; Fatty liver; Flaxseed; Hypertriglyceridemia; Plasma lipids; Soy protein


Objective: Soy protein and flaxseed meal have been reported to have beneficial effects on many chronic diseases in humans and animals. The primary objective of the study was to evaluate the beneficial effects of soy protein and flaxseed meal on hypertriglyceridemia and liver steatosis associated with obesity and diabetes. We compared the effects of dietary soy protein and flaxseed meal with that of casein on plasma and liver lipids in a genetic model of obesity, type II diabetes and insulin resistance, namely the SHR/N-cp rat. Methods: Lean and obese phenotypes of SHR/-cp rats were fed AIN 93 diets containing 20% of energy from casein (control), soy protein concentrate or flaxseed meal for six months. Plasma was analyzed for total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, triglyceride and total protein. Liver was analyzed for steatosis by light microscopy after staining samples with Hematoxylin-Eosin and Oil-Red-O. Results: In lean rats soy protein and flaxseed meal significantly decreased plasma total cholesterol (26.0% and 20.3% respectively) compared to casein. In obese rats flaxseed meal had significant cholesterol lowering effect compared to control rats (41%). Soy protein significantly lowered both plasma LDL-cholesterol and HDL-cholesterol in lean phenotypes while in obese phenotypes flaxseed meal significantly lowered LDL-cholesterol and HDL-cholesterol compared to casein-fed rats. Flaxseed meal also significantly lowered plasma triglyceride in both lean and obese rats compared to casein fed rats (33.7% and 37% respectively). There was significantly greater fat accumulation in livers of obese rats than lean rats (200%) regardless of dietary protein type. Flaxseed meal significantly lowered fat deposition in livers of both lean and obese rats compared to rats fed casein or soy protein. Dietary component(s) present in flaxseed meal or soy protein responsible for hypolipidemic effects is not clear. Conclusions: The marked hypotriglyceridemic and hypocholesterolemic effects of flaxseed meal may have important therapeutic implications in patients with hypertriglyceridemia and hypercholesterolemia and deserve further study in humans with these disorders. Flaxseed meal supplementation may provide a new therapeutic strategy to reduce hypertriglyceridemia and fatty liver. © 2003 American College of Nutrition.

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