Lignin is one of the major components of dietary fiber. It is a heterogeneous natural product composed of phenylpropane units and is usually associated with hemicellulose in its native state. Different researchers have demonstrated potential health benefits of this compound. Among them, there is the high activity in binding sodium salt of cholic acid. Antitumor, antiviral and immunopotentiating activities have been attributed to natural and synthetic lignin-related materials, as well as antibacterial and antiparasite activity.
Different experimental results suggest a mechanism whereby the free radical-scavenging activity of lignin in dietary fibre may be involved in the fiber-colon cancer interaction. The ability of dietary fibre to protect against colon cancer has been suggested to be determined by the amount of lignin in dietary fibre as well as the free scavenging ability of lignin.
Lignans are widely occurring plant compounds and are closely related to lignin, which forms the woody component of trees and other plants. The lignans are characterized by their dimeric composition from cinnamic acids and which are related biochemically to phenylalanine metabolism. There is a potential use of these compounds as antiviral and antitumour agents. Lignans are being studied for possible use in cancer prevention, particularly breast cancer.
Very early evidence suggests that lignans may also be antioxidants, although the strength of their antioxidant activity is not yet clear. Besides their potential use in cancer, preliminary research suggests that lignans may have a role lowering cholesterol. In addition, weak evidence suggests a possible role in preventing atherosclerosis, treating menopausal symptoms, and treating chronic kidney disease.
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