The health claim will relate to whole and milled flax products.
By Robby Gardner, Associate Editor
Though not yet formally announced, the Flax Council of Canada says Health Canada has approved a health claim for flax and cholesterol reduction. The claim is just the tenth allowed for foods and dietary supplements sold in the country.
Health Canada intends to treat this as a function claim only, unlike its therapeutic claims granted to ingredients such as barley, in which case manufacturers can describe lower cholesterol as “a risk factor for heart disease.” The exact wording of the flax claim is not yet final.
In an interview with Nutritional Outlook, the Flax Council of Canada said flax’s cholesterol claim will only relate to products made with milled or whole flax seed. Because the cholesterol-lowering effect appears largely related to flax’s high fiber content, flax oil will not qualify for the claim. The Flax Council adds that high contents of lignans and omega-3 fatty acids may also be partly responsible for the health effect.
“We vetted about 1100 papers and only seven were deemed of significant quality to actually be submitted to Health Canada,” said Kelley Fitzpatrick, director of health and nutrition at the Flax Council. “A lot of this work began in the mid-1990s, but the studies are all metabolic clinical trials with seed amounts of up to 30–40 g per day.”
The Flax Council doesn’t anticipate a lot of products to have such sufficient amounts of flax to carry the claim right now, but it is working with food developers to get qualified products onto the market soon enough. Aside from local products, most of Canada’s flax harvest is exported to the United States, where such a cholesterol health claim does not exist. The Flax Council says it hopes to approach the U.S. FDA with a similar dossier next year.
Besides cholesterol support, there may also be a significant link between flax and blood pressure.