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Lignans – Their Importance in Health

Lignans - Huge importance in health


These are plant polyphenols that have a significant impact on hormone metabolism. Flaxseed is the richest natural source of a lignan called secoisolariciresinol diglycoside (SDG). However, lignans in lesser amounts can be found in sesame seeds, berries, whole grains, fruits and vegetables.

It is stated that Flaxseeds contain 100x more lignans than any other plant source but like all natural sources, there can be variation in the content of the lignans. For this reason, having a standardized dose is beneficial and some formulations can provide this and this is especially important for cells in glandular tissues like the breast or prostate that are driven by oestrogen for reasons outlined below.

Endometriosis is a disease of uterine lining cells abnormally spreading to other parts of the body and in this instance, decreasing the oestrogenic drive can be highly beneficial in improving symptoms and decreasing spread of this dreadful disease affecting women.

Enterolactone and Enterodiol - Weak oestrogenic compounds blocking strong oestrogens

Lignans are modified by your gut microbiome to produce two compounds called Enterolactone and Enterodiol.

In the graphic below, it can be seen the the Enterolactone can block an enzyme that converts the weak Oestrone to the strong Oestradiol hormone.

Competitive inhibition at the oestrogen receptor

These compounds work in various ways but non-competitive and competitive inhibition are mechanisms involved in preventing hormone-induced diseases. Enterolactone and Enterodiol are weak oestrogens and so can affect hormone binding sites thus preventing stronger oestrogenic compounds from fully exerting their effects on hormone-sensitive cells.

This effect is important in both men and women. Aromatase is an enzyme that converts Testosterone to Oestrogen particularly in visceral fat i.e. the deep, toxic fat in the abdomen. Oestrogen can have an impact on the prostate in men and stimulates the breast glandular tissue in women.

Prostate Health

Oestrogen and Androgen balance is critical throughout life and can drive pathological processes in the prostate3.

There are huge geographical differences in the rates of prostate cancer. Research has shown that there is a massive 30-fold (30x) increased risk of prostate cancer in a male in the USA versus a male in Osaka, Japan and an astronomically high 120-fold (120x) increased rate of prostate cancer in a male in the USA versus a male in Shanghai, China3. Epidemiological studies indictate these vast differences in risk are due to dietary factors3. Oestrogens are thought to play a far greater role in prostate disease than previously thought3.

Lignans can be protective as well as consuming an Activ8Health Plan-A Type Diet that our dietitians can help you with


Endometrial cells are driven by oestrogen and antagonizing oestrogen is what is done in medical management to control the spread of this hormone sensitive tissue and to decrease pain.

Providing a massive amount of energy by consuming a typical Western diet is not clever as all dividing cells need a lot of energy. Consuming a diet high in lignans along with supplements designed to counteract the oestrogenic effect makes sense.

The Activ8Health Plan-A diet is such as diet – Find a Practitioner 


  1. Martin, M.E., Haourigui, M., Pelissero, C., Benassayag, C. and Nunez, E.A., 1995. Interactions between phytoestrogens and human sex steroid binding protein. Life sciences, 58(5), pp.429-436.
  2. Adlercreutz, H. and Mazur, W., 1997. Phyto-oestrogens and Western diseases. Annals of medicine, 29(2), pp.95-120.
  3. Griffiths, K., 2000. Estrogens and prostatic disease. The Prostate, 45(2), pp.87-100.