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Flaxseed and ginseng help cancer patients

Flaxseed slowed prostate cancer cell growth and people with cancer who took ginseng had more energy, according to two new studies.

In the prostate cancer study, researchers recruited 161 participants with prostate cancer at least three weeks before surgery to remove the entire prostate gland and divided the men into four similar groups that 1) took 30 grams of flaxseed per day along with a normal diet, 2) did not take flaxseed but ate a low-fat diet with no more than 20% of calories from fat, 3) took 30 grams of flaxseed per day along with the low-fat diet, or 4) as a control group, did not take flaxseed and ate a normal diet.

After an average of 30 days, scientists measured blood levels of a compound (MIB-1) that signals how quickly the cancer tumor is growing and found that, compared to placebo, those who took flaxseed alone had 28% slower tumor growth, while those who combined flaxseed with a low-fat diet had 34% slower tumor growth. Those who ate a low-fat diet without flaxseed had faster tumor growth compared to placebo, although total cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein (LDL, the “bad” cholesterol) decreased. Doctors believe that flaxseeds discourage male hormones, a factor in prostate cancer.

In the ginseng study, researchers from the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, recruited 282 participants with a variety of cancers undergoing chemotherapy or radiation who reported fatigue but not pain, who had not taken ginseng and who were expected to live six months. Participants took 750 mg of American ginseng (panax quinquefolius), 1,000 mg of ginseng, 2,000 mg of ginseng or a placebo per day for eight weeks. One-quarter of those who took either 1,000 mg or 2,000 mg of ginseng reported feeling moderately to much better compared to just 10% of those who took 750 mg of ginseng or placebo. The ginseng was a powdered capsule form from a single Wisconsin crop tested for uniform concentrations of ginsenosides, the main active compound. 

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