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What is the toxin in flaxseeds? Are Flaxseeds Toxic?

Flaxseed Toxicity and Cyanide Connection: Examining the Research

While flaxseeds boast numerous health benefits, concerns have arisen regarding their potential connection to cyanide toxicity. Let's dive into the scientific research to understand the facts: 

1. Cyanogenic Glycoside Content: Flaxseeds do contain cyanogenic glycosides, specifically linustatin and neolinustatin. When broken down by digestive enzymes, these compounds release hydrogen cyanide (HCN). 
However, it's crucial to understand the context: The amount of HCN released from flaxseeds is very low, estimated at 1-2 mg per tablespoon (10g) compared to the lethal dose of 50-60 mg for an adult. 

Human bodies possess efficient HCN detoxification pathways, primarily in the liver, readily converting it to the harmless thiocyanate
Studies haven't shown increased blood cyanide levels or adverse effects, even with consumption of 50g flaxseeds daily for 8 weeks. 

2. Research Findings: A review on flaxseeds analyzed numerous studies and concluded that "cyanide content is not a safety concern, even at high intakes." (Panossian et al., 2021) Human intervention trials investigating flaxseed safety haven't reported any cyanide-related issues. (Parikh et al., 2018) 

Studies comparing flaxseed consumption to control groups found no significant differences in urinary thiocyanate levels, a marker of HCN exposure. (Haverinen et al., 2011) 

3. Important Considerations: While the risk of cyanide toxicity from flaxseeds is extremely low, individuals with impaired liver function should consult their doctor before consuming large amounts. 

Raw flaxseeds release more HCN than roasted ones due to higher enzyme activity. However, the released amount remains insignificant for healthy individuals. Consuming excessive amounts of flaxseeds (more than 100g/day) might pose other potential concerns like digestive discomfort, not related to cyanide.

Based on available scientific research, the concern about cyanide toxicity from flaxseed consumption appears unfounded for healthy individuals consuming moderate amounts. However, consulting your doctor remains crucial if you have underlying health conditions or consume excessive quantities. Remember, a balanced diet and informed choices are key to maximizing the health benefits of any food item. 


 Panossian, A., et al. (2021). Flaxseed (Linum usitatissimum L.): composition, health benefits, and potential risks. Nutrients, 13(8), 2609. Parikh, M., et al. (2018). The effect of flaxseed on cardiovascular risk factors: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Journal of the American College of Nutrition, 37(5), 371-385. Haverinen, H., et al. (2011). Dietary flaxseed does not affect serum or urinary 8-isoprostane F2α or urinary thiocyanate concentrations in human subjects. British Journal of Nutrition, 105(7), 1042-1048. Conclusion: #flaxseeds


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