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Some of the best things in science are unexpected discoveries – things that surprise the researches that discover them almost by accident. Such a finding recently cropped up in a study underway in Canada: flaxseed can ower blod pressure.

Health food advocates and alternative medicine practitioners have long considered flaxseed a “superfood” because of it’s high in fiber, omega 3 fats and a group of compounds known as ligands. Antidotal evidence has suggested that it is helpful for lowering cholesterol, treating constipation, relieving menopausal symptoms and even reducing the risk of cancer.

However there haven’t been as many solid scientific studies availble as one would like to prove or disprove these claims. The Canadian study was set up to study the health benefits, if any, of flaxseed.

In the study, 110 people were randomly split into two groups. One group had a bakery product (bagel, muffin, etc.) containing about 3 tablespoons of ground flaxseed in each serving every day. The other group had the same baked good minus the flaxseed.

The researchers recorded a lot of information about the participants in the study, including their blood pressure. This was done just as a routine, not because they were particularly interested in their blood pressure.

As it turned out, about 80% of the people in the study had high blood pressure. Given how common high blood pressure has become, that’s not especially surprising.

Six months into the year long study the researchers took a preliminary look at the data. That’s when they made their surprising discovery: the flaxseed group had dramatically reduced their blood pressure. The systolic pressure was about 15mmHg lower while the diastolic was reduced by 7mmHg. To say the least, these are impressive findings. The research team reported them at a meeting of the American Heart Association.

While, as the saying goes, “more research is needed” adding flaxseed to your diet looks like a good idea if you have high blood pressure. This is a healthy, natural food that’s good for you anyway. If it helps control your blood pressure too so much the better.

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