March 5, 2002
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Flax Seed Fiber

Jane Ramberg and Cathy Tone,

Synonym(s):  linseed

Source(s):  seed of Linum usitatissimum

Historical Uses:  first used for food by the Abyssinians;1 medicinal properties include treatment of inflammation, and as an agent that soothes mucous membranes (it is found commonly in cough medicines)2

Linum usitatissimum, which originated in the Mediterranean region, is a source of fiber, albumin, fatty oil, cellulose, hemicelluloses, lignins, linamarin, linolenic acid esters, and linustatin.3  Flax seed is GRAS and may be used as a dietary supplement.4  It is recognized by the German government as an approved herb for the treatment of constipation, irritable colon, diverticulitis, gastritis and enteritis.3

Flax seed is one of the richest sources of α-linolenic acid.  Flax seed oil is used to treat omega-3-fatty acid deficiencies.5  In a study of healthy humans, flax seed consumption decreased total and low density lipoprotein serum cholesterols and decreased the postprandial glucose response.5  Flax seed significantly reduced hypercholesterolemic atherosclerosis in animal6 and hypercholesterolemia in human7 studies.  Animal studies suggest that flax seed oil consumption can be anti-tumorogenic.8 , 9

Reference List

1. Ensminger AH, Ensminger ME, Konlande JE, Robson JRK. The concise encyclopedia of foods and nutrition. Boca Raton, Florida: CRC Press; 1995.

2. Grieve M. A Modern Herbal. NY, NY: Dover Publications, Inc.; 1971.

3. Blumenthal M, Busse WR, Goldberg A, et al, eds. The Complete German Commission E Monographs. 1st ed. Austin, Texas: American Botanical Council; 1998.

4. Food and Drugs. 21CFR; April 1, 1999.

5. Cunnane SC, Ganguli S, Menard C, et al. High alpha-linolenic acid flaxseed (Linum usitatissimum): some nutritional properties in humans. Br.J Nutr 1993;69(2):443-453.

6. Prasad K. Dietary flax seed in prevention of hypercholesterolemic atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis 1997;132(1):69-76.

7. Bierenbaum ML, Reichstein R, Watkins TR. Reducing atherogenic risk in hyperlipemic humans with flax seed supplementation: a preliminary report. J Am.Coll.Nutr. 1993;12(5):501-504.

8. Yam D, Fink A, Nir I, Budowski P. Insulin-tumour interrelationships in EL4- lymphoma or thymoma- bearing mice. II. Effects of dietary omega-3 and omega- 6 polyunsaturated fatty acids. Br J Cancer 1990;62(6):897-902.

9. Fritsche KL, Johnston PV. Effect of dietary alpha-linolenic acid on growth, metastasis, fatty acid profile and prostaglandin production of two murine mammary adenocarcinomas. J Nutr 1990;120(12):1601-1609.


Fractionated Vegetable Oil

from Tom Gardiner and Jane Ramberg,

Vegetable oils in seed and fruit cells are released by breaking the cells, extracting the oils using solvents, and then heating the result to evaporate the solvent.  The resulting oil is then fractionated and re-esterified, yielding triglycerides and fatty acids.  Vegetable oils are rich with vitamin E, a strong antioxicant, and phytosterols, which have anticholesterolemic effects.


Author: Jane Ramberg.

FORMULA: oligosaccharides composed of galactose (C6H12O6)

SOURCE: naturally occur in pectins, gums, and mucilages 1

Dietary oligosaccharides, which can be fermented by intestinal bacteria, are beneficial for intestinal health.  Human subjects experienced increased fecal bifidobacteria numbers and lowered fecal nitroreductase activity following galactooligosaccharide supplementation.2  Ovariectomized rats fed a diet containing galactooligosaccharides experienced improved bone calcium absorption and lowered serum total cholesterol when compared with animals consuming a control diet.3

Reference List

1. Budavari S, O’Neil MJ, Smith A, et al, eds. The Merck Index. 12th ed. Whitehouse Station, NJ: Merck & Co., Inc.; 1996.

2. Ito M, Deguchi Y, Matsumoto K, Kimura M, Onodera N, Yajima T. Influence of galactooligosaccharides on the human fecal microflora. J Nutr.Sci Vitaminol.(Tokyo.) 1993;39:635-640.

3. Chonan O, Matsumoto K, Watanuki M. Effect of galactooligosaccharides on calcium absorption and preventing bone loss in ovariectomized rats. Biosci.Biotechnol.Biochem 1995;59:236-239.


“In normal human kidney, glycoconjugates having terminal galactose residues are localized in the proximal and distal convoluted tubules.  They are also present in intestinal mucins that may inhibit cholesterol absorption.”


Mayer RM, Treadwell CR, Gallo LL, Vahouny GV. Intestinal mucins and cholesterol uptake in vitro.

Biochim Biophys Acta 1985;833:34-43.


Author: Jane Ramberg

SOURCE: root of Allium sativum.

SYNONYMS: Poor Man’s Treacle

HISTORICAL USES: originated in middle Asia, where it has been cultivated for at least 5,000 years; according to the Greek historian, Herodotus, the builders of the Cheops pyramid (2,900 B.C.) lived primarily on onions and garlic; extensive therapeutic uses predate its use as a food 1

Garlic and its derivatives are GRAS as flavoring agents and adjuvants and may be directly added to foods.2 Garlic is one of the richest sources of the antioxidant nutrient selenium and also contains vitamin C, niacin, riboflavin, zinc, copper, magnesium, and iron.1 Consumption of large amounts of garlic may cause heartburn, flatulence or rashes. Because garlic can inhibit blood clotting (see below), individuals taking anti-coagulant medications (e.g., warfarin, coumadin) should consult their physician before consuming large quantities of garlic.3

Recent scientific research is validating the ancient wisdom of garlic consumption. The health benefits of garlic are derived primarily from allicin, a sulfur-containing compound that is responsible for garlic’s distinctive odor.3  Garlic shows promise in preventing thrombotic forms of heart disease and stroke.4, 3 The primary anti-platelet constituent found in garlic appears to be adenosine.5 In an in vitro study, garlic extracts inhibited platelet aggregation.6  Numerous studies have documented the cholesterol-lowering effects of garlic consumption.7 ,3

3. Anonymous. Herbal insurance. Does an allium a day keep the doctor

away? Harv Health Lett 1998;23:7

4. DeBoer LW, Folts JD. Garlic extract prevents acute platelet thrombus

formation in stenosed canine coronary arteries. Am Heart J


5. Makheja AN, Bailey JM. Antiplatelet constituents of garlic and onion.

Agents Actions 1990;29:360-363.

6. Srivastava KC. Aqueous extracts of onion, garlic and ginger inhibit platelet

aggregation and alter arachidonic acid metabolism. Biomed Biochim

Acta 1984;43:S335-S346

7. Bordia A. Effect of garlic on blood lipids in patients with coronary heart

disease. Am J Clin Nutr 1981;34:2100-2103.

Ghatti Gum


Author: Jane Ramberg and Tom Gardiner.

SOURCE: exudate from bark wound of Anogeissus latifolia tree from India

SYNONYMS: Gum ghatti, Indian gum

HISTORICAL USE: emulsifying agent in foods and pharmaceuticals 1

Gum ghatti can be used as a food and is regulated in the U.S. as GRAS for use as a direct food substance.2 It is a complex polysaccharide, composed of the nutritional sugars L-arabinose, D-galactose, D-mannose, D-xylose, and D-glucuronic acid. It occurs in nature as a calcium-magnesium salt, composed mainly of alpha-D-mannopyranose and 1,6-linked beta-D-galactopyranose units, and is comprised of approximately 80% soluble dietary fiber.3 …

Gum ghatti fed to animals was reported to lower cholesterol moderately.8

8. Fahrenbach MJ, Riccardi BA, Grant WC. Hypocholesterolemic activity of mucilaginous polysaccharides in White Leghorn cockerels. Proc Soc Exp Biol Med 1966;123:321-326.


Authors:  Jane Ramberg and Cathy Tone, “Ginger,”

Root of Zingiber officinale.  Cholesterol-fed rabbits experienced reduced serum and tissue levels of total cholesterol, serum triglycerides, serum lipoproteins and phospholipids following ginger extract supplementation.  “Dietary ginger enhanced lipase activity in rats.”

See U. Bhandari, J.N. Sharma, and R. Zafar, “The protective action of ethanolic ginger (Zingiber officinale) extract in cholesterol fed rabbits. J. Ethnopharmacol.  61 (1998) 167-171 and K. Platel and K. Srinivasan, “Influence of dietary spices or their active principles on digestive enzymes of small intestinal mucosa in rats. Int. J. Food Sci. Nutr. 47 (1996) 55-59.

Grapefruit Juice and Zocor

November, 1998 - Simvastatin (Zocor) is a cholesterol lowering drug.  We studied the effect of grapefruit juice on the action of oral simvastatin.  In a randomized, crossover study, 10 healthy volunteers took either 200mL double-strength grapefruit juice or water 3 times a day for 2 days.  On day 3, each subject took 60mg simvastatin with either 200mL grapefruit juice or water.  An additional 200mL was taken ˝ and 1˝ hours after the simvastatin.  Then, blood levels of simvastatin were measured.  Grapefruit juice increased the average peak blood levels of unchanged simvastatin about 9 times.  Grapefruit juice greatly increased blood levels of simvastatin and simvastatin acid.  Use of grapefruit juice and simvastatin at the same time, at least in large amounts, should be avoided.


Source: Clin Pharmacol Ther 1998 Nov;64(5):477-83

Guar Gum

Gene A. Spiller, John W. Farquhar, Joan E. Gates, and Stephen F. Nichols, “Guar gum and plasma cholesterol; effect of guar gum and an oat fiber source on plasma lipoproteins and cholesterol in hypercholesterolemic adults, Arteriosclerosis and Thrombosis 11(5) September-October 1991, 1204-1208.


5 g/day of guar gum thrice daily with water at mealtime for three weeks reduced total plasma cholesterol 26 mg/dl from 244 mg/dl, and reduced low density lipoprotein cholesterol by 25 mg/dl.  Effects on high density lipoprotein cholesterol and very low density lipoprotein cholesterol were insignificant.

SOURCE: Bioguar, Bios, Santa Barbara, CA.


Gum Acacia

Author: Jane Ramberg/Tom Gardiner

SOURCE: exudate from the stems and branches of the African tree

Acacia senegal (or other species)

SYNONYMS: gum arabic

HISTORICAL USES: a major product of commerce in the Sahelian region of Africa for over 4000 years 1

A water-soluble fiber, gum acacia is composed of arabinogalactan-protein and several high-molecular weight polysaccharides and their calcium, magnesium, and potassium salts, which yield on hydrolysis arabinose, galactose, rhamnose, and glucuronic acid.2,3

Gum acacia is GRAS and may be used as a direct food substance, where it may serve as an emulsifier, stabilizer, or flavoring agent.4 It has also been deemed safe as a food additive by international authorities.5 It is widely used in foods to increase their texture and/or viscosity, to retard sugar crystallization in baked goods, and as a stabilizer in the production of pharmaceutical tablets.2  It is increasingly used in low calorie beverages as a soluble fiber source.6 

Eighty-five to 100% of gums are degraded in the colon.7  Largely indigestible by humans, gum acacia is fermented by bacteria in the colon.8,6  In an in vitro study, gum acacia was fermented by a number of bacteria that inhabit the human colon, including the beneficial Bifidobacterium species.9,10 In an in vitro study, gum acacia encouraged the growth of anaerobic bacteria and inhibited the growth of the pathogenic colonic bacterium, Clostridium difficile.11  In another in vitro study, gum acacia reduced dietary lipid emulsification and lowered triacylglycerol lipolysis, suggesting a mechanism by which gum acacia may limit lipid absorption.12

Studies have shown that soluble fiber can enhance intestinal immune function (see fiber, arabinogalactan). A large portion of the body’s immune system is localized to the gastrointestinal (GI) wall and in mesenteric lymph nodes.13  Bacteria form a protective layer and help regulate inflammation and immunity. Elimination of bacteria from the mouse GI tract by antibiotics results in significant immune response suppression,14 suggesting that intestinal bacteria play an important role in host defense. In an animal study, consumption of gum acacia stimulated intestinal and splenic immune system function.15

The effects of gum acacia consumption on cholesterol levels have been equivocal. Two studies have documented lowered serum cholesterol levels,8,16 while a third documented no or inconsistent effects.17

8. Ross AH, Eastwood MA, Brydon WG, Anderson JR, Anderson DM. A study of the effects of dietary gum arabic in humans. Am J Clin Nutr 1983;37:368-375.

16. Eastwood MA, Brydon WG, Anderson DM. The effect of the polysaccharide composition and structure of dietary fibers on cecal fermentation and fecal excretion. Am J Clin Nutr 1986;44:51-55.

17. Tsai AC, Elias J, Kelley JJ, Lin RS, Robson JR. Influence of certain dietary fibers on serum and tissue cholesterol levels in rats. J Nutr 1976;106:118-123.

Hawthorne Berry Extract




“Homocysteine and Atherosclerotic Heart Disease: A New and 'Unusual Suspect'”

Michelle Taylor-Chinn, RN, MSN, APN

 [Clinician Reviews 10(10):45-57, 2000. © 2000 Clinicians Publishing Group]




Traditional risk factors for cardiovascular disease (CVD) may account for only one half to two thirds of the actual risk.  Homocysteine, one of several "new" variables whose roles in CVD are under investigation, is a naturally occurring amino acid that depends on vitamin B6, folate, and vitamin B12 to be metabolized.  Researchers have confirmed associations between elevated homocysteine and risk for myocardial infarction (MI), stroke, and CVD mortality; insufficient plasma levels of folate and vitamin B6 have been linked with MI risk, and their increased intake has been shown to lower homocysteine.  While it has not yet been proven conclusively that consuming these nutrients directly reduces the risk of CVD, clinicians should encourage patients to meet their recommended daily intake, and should confirm and address elevated homocysteine levels in at-risk patients.



Author: Jane Ramberg


FOOD SOURCES: marine fish and shellfish, iodized salt

Iodine may be used as a vitamin supplement.1 It is used orally to treat hypothyroidism and topically to treat infections.2

Iodine is either supplied in the diet or by deiodination of thyroid hormones.  Iodine deficiencies are found in parts of Europe 3 and in the Great Lakes and Pacific Northwest regions of the United States.4  A deficiency of iodine can reduce thyroid hormone production and reduce the metabolic rate.5  Animal and human studies indicate that optimal intake of iodine can reduce the risk of developing atherosclerosis.6 

Normal function of the thyroid gland, a gland actively involved in the regulation of metabolism, particularly oxidative metabolism, requires iodine for normal function. More than a third of the iodine in the human body is found in the thyroid gland, where it is an integral component of the thyroid hormones thyroxine and triiodothyronine. The thyroid hormones affect oxygen consumption and the metabolic rate and may stimulate the release of fatty acids from adipose tissue.5  Thyroxine may inhibit cholesterol biosynthesis.5

Reference List

1. Reynolds EF, Parfitt K, eds. Martindale, The Extra Pharmacopoeia. 29th  ed. London: The Pharmaceutical Press; 1989.

2. Budavari S, O’Neil MJ, Smith A, et al, eds. The Merck Index. 12th ed. Whitehouse Station, NJ: Merck & Co., Inc.; 1996.

3. Kusic Z, Lechpammer S. Successful struggle against iodine deficiency disorders (I.D.D.) in Croatia. Coll.Antropol. 1997;21:499-506.

4. Ensminger AH, Ensminger ME, Konlande JE, Robson JRK. The Concise Encyclopedia of Foods and Nutrition. Boca Raton, Florida: CRC Press; 1995.

5. Linder MC, editor .Nutritional Biochemistry and Metabolism. 2nd ed. New York, New York: Elsevier; 1991.

6. Mertz W. Trace minerals and atherosclerosis. Fed Proc 1982;41:2807-2812.

Konjac Glucomannan

Author: Jane Ramberg

SOURCE: powdered extract from tubers of Amorphophallus konjac

Konjac glucomannan (KG) is a soluble fiber. In Japan, KG is a popular food.1

Resistant to degradation by human enzymes, soluble fiber passes virtually unaltered through the GI tract until it reaches an abundant ecosystem of over 400 species of bacteria in the colon 2 capable of enzymatic fiber degradation.  Known as prebiotics because they support the bacterial flora of the gut, soluble dietary fibers form a gel, providing the matrix in which bacteria survive and physiochemical interactions can occur.3

Numerous dietary studies have documented the health benefits of KG consumption.  KG consumption can increase bile acid binding.4  Following KG supplementation, increased serum high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, decreased serum cholesterol, triglycerides, free fatty acids (FFAs),5 and improved glucose tolerance 6 was reported in animal studies.  In normal humans, supplementation with KG resulted in decreased serum glucose and insulin levels;7 another study reported decreased total and LDL cholesterol and triglycerides.8  Diabetics experienced decreased serum cholesterol and glucose and a diminished requirement for insulin.7  Other studies have documented weight loss,9 and decreased intestinal transit time and decreased levels of serum bile acids following KG consumption.1  It was reported that intestinal absorption of vitamin E was reduced in humans receiving a test meal containing KG, possibly due to decreased levels of intestinal bile acids.10

Reference List

1. Doi K. Effect of konjac fibre (glucomannan) on glucose and lipids. Eur.J Clin.Nutr. 1995;49 Suppl 3:S190-S197

2. Gorbach SL, Goldin BR. The intestinal microflora and the colon cancer connection. Rev.Infect.Dis. 1990;12 Suppl 2:S252-S261

3. Ornstein MH, Baird IM. Dietary fibre and the colon. Mol.Aspects.Med 1987;9:41-67.

4. Ebihara K, Schneeman BO. Interaction of bile acids, phospholipids, cholesterol and triglyceride with dietary fibers in the small intestine of rats. J Nutr. 1989;119:1100-1106.

5. Venter CS, Vorster HH, Van der Nest DG. Comparison between physiological effects of konjac-glucomannan and propionate in baboons fed "Western" diets. J Nutr. 1990;120:1046-1053.

6. Vorster HH, De Jager J. The effect of the long-term ingestion of konjac-glucomannan on glucose tolerance and immunoreactive insulin values of baboons. S.Afr.Med J 1984;65:805-808.

7. Doi K, Matsuura M, Kawara A, Baba S. Treatment of diabetes with glucomannan (konjac mannan). Lancet. 1979;1:987-988.

8. Arvill A, Bodin L. Effect of short-term ingestion of konjac glucomannan on serum cholesterol in healthy men. Am.J Clin.Nutr. 1995;61:585-589.

9. Walsh DE, Yaghoubian V, Behforooz A. Effect of glucomannan on obese patients: a clinical study. Int.J Obes. 1984;8:289-293.

10. Doi K, Matsuura M, Kawara A, Tanaka T, Baba S. Influence of dietary fiber (konjac mannan) on absorption of vitamin B12 and vitamin E. Tohoku.J Exp.Med 1983;141 Suppl:677-681.