Flax used for weaving cloth, feeding people and animals, and even making paint could also protect healthy tissues and organs from the harmful effects of radiation, according to a new study.
Principal investigator Melpo Christofidou-Solomidou of the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania and colleagues found that a diet of flaxseed given to mice not only protects lung tissues before exposure to radiation, but also can significantly reduce damage after exposure occurs.
In several separate experiments, the researchers fed one group of mice a diet supplemented with 10 percent flaxseed, either three weeks before a dose of X-ray radiation to the thorax or two, four, or six weeks after radiation exposure.
A control group subjected to the same radiation dose was given the same diet but receiving an isocaloric control diet without the flaxseed supplement.
After four months, only 40 percent of the irradiated control group survived, compared to 70 to 88 percent of the irradiated flaxseed-fed animals.
Mice on flaxseed displayed improved survival rates and mitigation of radiation pneumonitis, with increased blood oxygenation levels, higher body weight, lower pro-inflammatory cytokine levels, and greatly reduced pulmonary inflammation and fibrosis.
The study was recently published in BMC Cancer.