Flaxseed’s Impact on Gut Microbiota Reveals Potential for Breast Cancer Prevention
Akshay Naik 15 December 2023
Flaxseeds are highly nutritious and are known for their numerous health benefits. Interestingly, a new study has now revealed that manipulating our gut microbiome with flaxseed components could hold the key in reducing the risk of breast cancer. 
Published in the journal Microbiology Spectrum, the study was conducted by researchers the University of Toronto. Looking specifically at young female mice, the researchers attempted to investigate effects of flaxseed lignans on the microbiota. Lignans are fibre-associated compounds found in many foods and are particularly plentiful in flaxseeds. They have been associated with decreased breast cancer mortality in post-menopausal women. 
This new study has demonstrated that flaxseed lignans prompt specific microRNA (miRNA—micro ribonucleic acid) responses in the mammary gland. The miRNAs, are short non-coding RNAs that play a crucial role in regulating gene expression. The identified subset of miRNAs regulates genes involved in breast cancer, impacting cell proliferation and migration. 
By feeding female mice flaxseed lignan components, researchers sought to understand the relationship between gut cecal microbiota profiles and miRNA expression in the mammary gland. The cecum, located in the right lower abdomen, is believed to contribute to the production of short-chain fatty acids and host anaerobic bacteria. 
One flaxseed oil lignan, requiring microbial processing, releases bioactive metabolites which are small-molecule chemicals produced during metabolism, that influence physiology and disease. In this case, the released metabolites have been found to have anti-tumour effects. The study, thus, manages to establish a link between microbiota and mammary gland miRNA, revealing that flaxseed lignans modify this relationship to be non-cancer causing. 
“If these findings are confirmed, the microbiota becomes a new target to prevent breast cancer through dietary intervention,” emphasises Dr Elena M Comelli, the corresponding author and associate professor in the department of nutritional sciences and the Temerty Faculty of Medicine at the University of Toronto. 
This research sheds light on the intricate interplay between diet, gut microbiota and breast health, paving the way for potential dietary strategies in breast cancer prevention.
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