Flax Lignans for Acne

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Millions of people suffer from acne, a condition affecting the pilosebaceous units of skin (see figure 1). While the cause of acne is not completely understood, heredity, hormones and bacteria all play a role. During puberty, the production of adrenal androgens is increased in both boys and girls. The elevation of androgens can cause an increase in sebum production, particularly in the face, chest and back (sebum is a waxy substance that helps the skin retain moisture). Excess sebum can lead to acne; the level of sebum excretion has been shown to correlate well with the severity of acne.

Some people are more prone to develop acne than others and family history and lifestyle can play a role. For instance the use of anabolic steriods taken by bodybuilders can lead to severe outbreaks.

Generally, mild acne is treated by topical therapy. Moderate or severe acne may require topical therapy combined with oral therapy. Treatments are targeted to reduce sebum production and bacterial growth.

Since androgens (testosterone) play a role in the development of acne, hormonal therapies may be useful alternatives or adjuncts to traditional treatment. The beneficial effects of oral contraceptives on acne have been noted for several years. They are thought to exert anti-acne effects by decreasing the amount of circulating androgens. Recent research points to flax lignans as a natural alternative for the treatment of acne. Lignans have been shown to inhibit 5 alpha-reductase, an enzyme involved in the conversion of testosterone to DHT (its more active form). Inhibition of this enzyme shows promise in the treatment of a number of androgen-dependent disorders, including acne. Therefore flax lignans are of interest in the possible treatment of acne, although additional research is being conducted to confirm these findings.

Flax Lignans for Hair Loss
Another health benefit fax lignans may provide to both men and women is help with hair loss and thinning hair. According to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), the most common form of hair loss is androgenetic alopecia (AGA). The AAD states that an estimated 50 million men and 30 million women suffer from AGA, also known as heredity hair loss, in the us alone. An average of 50 percent of all population suffers from AGA by the age of 50.

The exact cause of AGA remains unknown but an individual's level of androgens (testosterone and its metabolites) is believed to be a factor. Heredity from both male and female parents also influences an individual's predisposition to hair loss. Although hair loss is mainly associated with genetic and hormonal factors, it can also occur with illness and infectious diseases or nervous disorders.

Hair loss occurs when hair follicles sprout hairs that are thinner than normal. Eventually the hairs become thinner and thinner and hair follicles become miniaturized.

Many treatments for AGA are being researched. Some new prescription drugs are being used for hair loss that were originally used for the treatment of prostate problems. These drugs work by blocking the formation of the male hormones that are known to cause prostate growth. These same hormones may also be a cause of hair loss. In one study, a majority of men with pattern baldness had increased production of dihydrotestosterone (DHT), a potent metabolite of testosterone. The enzyme responsible for the conversion of testosterone to DHT is 5 alpha-reductase. Therefore, inhibition of this enzyme (5 alpha-reductase) may be beneficial in preventing or treating hair loss.

Alternative treatments and options to halt hair loss are being identified through scientific research. Natural substances like flax lignans have been shown to inhibit 5 alpha-reductase and other enzymes involved in testosterone metabolism, therefore making flax lignans of interest in the possible treatment and prevention of hair loss.

PHOTO (COLOR): Normal pilosebaceous unit

DIAGRAM: Mechanisms of Hair Loss

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