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4.0 out of 5 stars IS FLAX THE NEW WHEAT?, February 4, 2013
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This review is from: Wheat Belly Cookbook: 150 Recipes to Help You Lose the Wheat, Lose the Weight, and Find Your Path Back to Health (Hardcover)
Dr. Davis has succeeded in drawing attention to the dangers of wheat and the benefits of a low-carb diet beyond what I thought possible. He builds a convincing case against this new plant that he says shouldn't even be called "wheat," and he documents most of his arguments with supportive research. I was already avoiding most grains and decided to eliminate wheat after reading Wheat Belly. I have been following a low-carb lifestyle and writing about it for over 13 years, so it wasn't a radical change for me.

I do have a major concern about both of the Wheat Belly books, however. Ten out of the 29 recipes in the original Wheat Belly call for flax, as do most of the recipes in the new cookbook. Flax meal has become a staple food for many who want to avoid wheat. It is used in gluten-free baked goods and as a flour substitute in low-carb foods. It is also used as a replacement for eggs in low-fat and vegan recipes and as a supplement to provide fiber and omega-3 fats. Many people are eating it in great quantities, thinking it is the ultimate superfood or, as one writer said to me, "The most powerful food on the planet."

A closer look shows some pretty scary stuff about flax, rancidity, for one. Flax contains very fragile oils that are easily damaged by heat, light, air, and time. It should be stored in the refrigerator and used promptly. Only fresh, ripe, freshly-ground seeds are safe to eat, so obviously, cooking with flax is not a good idea.

Flax has a lot in common with soy, once the darling of the healthfood crowd. Both soy and flax contain estrogen mimics. (An extract of soy is used as hormone replacement therapy for treating menopause symptoms.) These plants produce hormones as a way to defend themselves from predators (like us) by disrupting the endocrine system of those who eat them so they can't reproduce. Eating a lot of plant estrogens might not be such a good thing, especially for men.

Soy, a byproduct of the vegetable oil industry, has been heavily marketed as a health food since the 1990s. Flax seed comes from the kind of plant used for making linen. Neither were staple foods in any traditional society. A 1998 study from Cornell conducted by vegan advocate and author of The China Study, T. Collin Campbell, reported that the Japanese ate less than 2 teaspoons of soy protein per day. (Celibate monks, who use soy and a vegetarian diet to reduce libido, are an exception.)

In addition to soy, which is already ubiquitous in our food supply, pesticides, plastics such as Bisphenol A (BPA), and chemicals like perfluoroctanoic acid (PFOA), also contain these hormone-like chemicals and the dose is cumulative. BPA and PFOA, the so-called gender benders, have been linked to breast cancer, fertility problems, and other hormone related illnesses.

While both flax and soy contain estrogen mimics, according to Web MD, flax contains 800 times as much of these hormone-like chemicals as soy!! In fact, flax contains more plant estrogens than any other plant food.

We are already experiencing an epidemic of infertility along with our other epidemics of obesity, diabetes, autism, auto-immune diseases, explosive rage disorder, and more. You may have heard that American men have one-third the sperm counts of their grandfathers and that by 2050, for the first time in modern history, scientists are predicting that our population will start to go down. Add in all the men who are on statins to reduce cholesterol (testosterone is made out of cholesterol), and it is easy to see why the same companies that sell statins also sell Viagra and Cialis.

There is conflicting evidence about phytoestrogens (phyto means plant). Some think they may be helpful, some think they may be harmful, and most of the articles about them end by saying, "more research is necessary." But this much is clear: This is potent medicine and the dosage is very important!

How much is a dose? Even the sites that recommend flax as a supplement tell you to consult your doctor to determine how much to take. The USDA says that 3 tablespoons of flax a day is a safe level. Some of the recipes in the Wheat Belly Cookbook contain more than that in a single serving.

Below is a sample of warnings about flax from various organizations:

~from [...]
"Taking flaxseed or flaxseed oil by mouth may cause a person with bipolar disorder to experience mania or hypomania....

Raw flaxseed or flaxseed plant may increase blood levels of cyanide, a toxic chemical....

Flaxseed may cause low blood pressure. Caution is advised in patients with blood pressure disorders and those taking drugs, herbs, or supplements that affect blood pressure....

Based on the available evidence, flaxseed, which contains alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), should be avoided in patients with prostate cancer or those at risk for prostate cancer....

Use flaxseed and flaxseed oil cautiously in patients with elevated triglycerides, as these agents may raise or lower triglyceride levels."

~From [...]
"One study reports that the menstrual period may be altered in women who take flaxseed powder by mouth daily. Due to the possible estrogen-like effects of flaxseed (not flaxseed oil), it should be used cautiously in women with hormone sensitive conditions such as endometriosis, polycystic ovary syndrome, uterine fibroids, or cancer of the breast, uterus, or ovary. Some natural medicine textbooks advise caution in patients with hypothyroidism, although little scientific information is available in this area....

Raw flaxseed or flaxseed plant may increase blood levels of cyanide, a toxic chemical (this effect has not been reported when flaxseed supplements are taken at recommended doses.)" (Are they talking about a few spoonfuls of seeds or a little capsule of oil? We don't know. JBB)

~From [...]
"A study on the Effect of Flax Seed Ingestion on the Menstrual Cycle, published in a 1993 Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, found that a woman's menstrual period might be altered if she consumes flaxseed products daily....

Because flaxseed has estrogen-like effects, it may result in a worsening of conditions such as uterine, ovarian and breast cancers; uterine fibroids; polycystic ovary syndrome; and endometriosis, according to the Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database of the National Institutes of Health. Women who have hormone-sensitive conditions should probably avoid using large amounts of flaxseed. It can also alter the effects of oral contraception."

Please do your own research and decide for yourself whether you want flax in your diet and if so, how much is too much.

I had hoped to find a replacement that worked as well as flax in these recipes before I posted this review so I could suggest an easy fix. Chia seeds are the best candidate I have found so far, but the recipes still need some tweaking. I made a good loaf of Basic Bread by substituting one-half the amount of chia for the flax, but my chia version of the Flaxseed Wraps needed a complete overhaul. (Chia seeds contain the same fragile oils found in flax, but chia also contains large amounts of natural antioxidants to keep it fresh, even after it is ground. Chia has no phytoestrgens or toxins and unlike flaxseed, chia can be kept for long periods without becoming rancid.)

The Wheat Belly Cookbook also does an excellent job of explaining why we need to ditch wheat and other high-carb foods and makes the case that modern wheat was not adequately tested for human consumption. But flax hasn't stood the test of time either. Is flax as risky as wheat? Perhaps not, but if you eat too much of it, you may just be replacing one untested food with another. Women and girls may be at risk for hormone imbalances and the guys may be trading a wheat belly for flax boobs and Viagra. Still not a pretty picture.
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Showing 1-10 of 59 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Feb 5, 2013 11:45:06 AM PST
born2bead says:
I appreciate you comments on flax seed. I was unaware of some the issues with flax seed. I wish I'd read your review before I bought a bag of it just now! Having had breast cancer I pretty much avoid soy and it sounds like flax seed may not be my friend either. I'm still interested in cutting back on my wheat and carb consumption but will now proceed with caution where flax is concerned.

In reply to an earlier post on Feb 5, 2013 11:48:44 AM PST
J. Baker says:
Thank you for letting me know that my review was helpful and good luck!

In reply to an earlier post on Feb 10, 2013 4:21:07 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Feb 10, 2013 4:37:52 AM PST
Before you make bad statements about Flaxseed, I think you should really back it up!Just to cut, and paste what fits you , is not fair. There is only a little truth in what you said!
I went into google, and put in side effects of Flaxseed, and really could not come up with much of anything. Too much of anything good is not healthy. I do agree with you about Soy, and I will not bring it into my home.
I think we all know, or should know, that Flaxseed can become rancid, as any seed or nut can..
Flaxseed should be kept in the freezer, and it can be ground up in a coffee grinder when you need to use it. To clean out your coffee grinder, grind up bread in it.

Here is a website to check out about Flaxseed:

This is from, Web MD:As you stated, said Flaxseed is not healthy etc. Which it is..

Before anyone rushes into what someone has to say, Please check it out first, to see if it is right for you.
Do not forget that Dr. Davis is a heart Dr. . He has done allot of research before putting out his books. He does not need a law suit.
I have nothing to do with Dr.Davis.

In reply to an earlier post on Feb 10, 2013 3:34:35 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Feb 11, 2013 11:17:27 AM PST
J. Baker says:
There are many articles that say flax is healthful at a supplemental level and many that say it has a potential for harm if eaten in excess, but I haven't seen any that say it does nothing. If food has a medicinal effect, we need to be careful with it.

I know others who warn about the dangers of soy, while recommending flax as a health food. Flax has more estrogen-like compounds than any other food. Here is one study that found that flax had a greater hormonal effect that soy: "Supplementation with flaxseed alters estrogen metabolism in postmenopausal women to a greater extent than does supplementation with an equal amount of soy." Am J Clin Nutr. 2004 Feb;79(2):318-25.

I talked to a woman today who told me about her daughter-in-law who had 3 miscarriages in the past year after adding flax to her diet. She already had 2 children and had never had fertility problems before. She had started a Paleo diet and was eating a lot of flax (and giving it to her children) but had not made a connection. I think people should be warned about this so they will recognize an adverse reaction if it occurs.

Posted on May 27, 2013 12:00:09 PM PDT
A. rs says:
Thanks for your comments, I have a house of boys only, will not be using flax or soy. Hoping Dr. Davis can look into this again and provide an update.

Posted on Jul 1, 2013 7:36:15 AM PDT
L. Mills says:
Thank you so much for alerting readers to the potential dangers/side-effects of flax. After recently purchasing the cookbook, I like you, was quite concerned that this prominent doctor packed most of his recipes with this controversial ingredient. Flax should NEVER be consumed in large quantities, and this is a known fact in the natural wellness community. It is a potent phyto-estrogen, and even small amounts of flax seed oil can be hazardous for some people. While I'm totally on board with Dr. Davis on the need to ditch wheat, I'm rather sorry I even purchased the cookbook. Finding a reasonable substitute for the flax seed could prove too time-consuming and costly, and there are many low glycemic/wheat free cookbooks out there.

Posted on Aug 6, 2013 8:22:28 AM PDT
T. ross says:
Rancidity seems to be a problem with most grains , seeds and nuts. The few that I do eat stay in the fridge and I only buy from stores that restock shelves often like Trader Joe's.

I think cooking oils are just as great offenders at wheat and GMO corn. Almsot all are rancid and processed so you cannot taste how rancid they are. Another thing is people are so used to rancid tasted they do not know the difference.

Coconut oil has a very long shelf life 2 years unrefined and I believe 10+ years if refined it is also available in spray form at Trader Joe's.

Clarified butter is an an excellent alternative as well and easy to make at home for half of what it costs in store. I just made
16 oz of Organic Ghee today for $4.50

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 6, 2013 11:15:12 AM PDT
J. Baker says:
T. Ross: I agree. I just started making ghee. I have discovered that I may be allergic to some dairy products, but seem to be fine with butter fat.

Posted on Oct 18, 2013 3:29:56 AM PDT
taylor says:
Yes you are correct, in that flax seeds do contain phytoestrogen. However, the pytoestrogen in flax seeds contains lignans. Lignans have the capability to bind onto estrogen receptors- promoting the body to metabolize estrogen. When the body is able to use estrogen efficiently, both premenopausal and postmenopausal women benefit from it. In my research, there aren't any sound studies that support the use of pytoestrogen in flax seeds as highly harmful.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 17, 2013 4:17:00 PM PST
Joanna63 says:
Thank you for backing up the original reviewer. I take progesterone as I have an over abundance of estrogen. I will stick with adding Chia seeds for essential oils, and won't try to reincorporate flax seeds. I'm afraid I'll just continue on without breads in my diet, gluten free included, unless I can find some good grain free/gluten free recipes.
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