Lignans are polyphenolic compounds with a wide spectrum of biological functions including antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anticarcinogenic activities, therefore, there is an increasing interest in promoting the inclusion of lignan-rich foods in humans’ diets. Flaxseed is the richest source of the lignan secoisolariciresinol diglucoside—a compound found in the outer fibrous-containing layers of flax. The rumen appears to be the major site for the conversion of secoisolariciresinol diglucoside to the enterolignans enterodiol and enterolactone, but only enterolactone has been detected in milk of dairy cows fed flaxseed products (whole seeds, hulls, meal). However, there is limited information regarding the ruminal microbiota species involved in the metabolism of secoisolariciresinol diglucoside. Likewise, little is known about how dietary manipulation such as varying the nonstructural carbohydrate profile of rations affects milk enterolactone in dairy cows. Our review covers the gastrointestinal tract metabolism of lignans in humans and animals and presents an in-depth assessment of research that have investigated the impacts of flaxseed products on milk enterolactone concentration and animal health. It also addresses the pharmacokinetics of enterolactone consumed through milk, which may have implications to ruminants and humans’ health.
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