Sesamin, a primary lignan found in sesame seeds, possesses various biological activities. For thousands of years, sesame seeds have been a traditional health food in East Asian countries. In recent years, numerous studies have discovered that after undergoing metabolism in the liver, sesamin can effectively prevent hypertension, exhibit antithrombotic effects, and lower blood lipid levels. These effects have significant positive impacts on cardiovascular health. Moreover, sesamin also demonstrates antioxidant properties and the ability to inhibit cancer cell growth, contributing to its potential as an anti-cancer agent .
What is Sesamin?
Sesamin is a major lignan found in sesame (Sesamum indicum), an ancient herbaceous plant that primarily grows in subtropical and tropical regions. People mainly consume its seeds or extract oil for culinary purposes. Lignans are believed to possess various nutritional and physiological benefits, along with diverse and unique biological activities. Sesame is well known for being rich in several lignans, including sesamin, sesamol, and sesamolin.
Sesamin, a type of fat-soluble furanoid lignan, belongs to the family of benzodioxoles. Generally, raw sesame oil contains about 0.5-1.1% sesamin and 0.2-0.6% sesamolin.
Sesamin serves as a precursor to mammalian lignans enterolactone and enterodiol, both of which exhibit a weaker estrogenic activity. Sesamin offers protective effects against diseases such as breast cancer. Sesamin has also been found to lower blood pressure, reduce blood lipid levels, inhibit cholesterol absorption and synthesis, and contribute to blocking the formation of pro-inflammatory prostaglandins. It helps prevent alcohol-induced liver damage, enhances the bioavailability of γ-tocopherol (a form of vitamin E) in the body, and suppresses carcinogenesis induced in animals .
Furthermore, numerous studies now confirm that sesamin has a positive impact on sleep .
The 5 Major Benefits of Sesamin
1. Lowers Blood Pressure
Recent research has shown that sesamin has beneficial effects on hypertension. Clinical studies have found that supplementing with 60 mg of sesamin daily for 4 weeks significantly reduces both systolic and diastolic blood pressure in individuals with mild hypertension, contributing to cardiovascular health improvement .
💡Another clinical study focused on rheumatoid arthritis patients with higher risk of cardiovascular disease. These patients were given a daily supplement of 200 mg of sesamin for 6 weeks, which resulted in a significant reduction in systolic blood pressure and demonstrating protective effects against cardiovascular risk factors in rheumatoid arthritis patients .
💡Animal studies have also revealed that sesamin supplementation led to a significant decrease in systolic blood pressure after 8 weeks. Moreover, long-term sesamin consumption enhanced the bioactivity of nitric oxide in the aorta, aiding in blood pressure reduction and improvement of endothelial dysfunction.
2. Cancer Prevention
Sesamin exhibits potent anti-cancer properties. Multiple studies suggest that sesamin’s anti-cancer effects stem from its ability to inhibit proliferation, induce apoptosis, counter inflammation, suppress metastasis, inhibit angiogenesis, and enhance autophagy. Existing evidence supports sesamin’s powerful anti-cancer activity both in vitro and in vivo, indicating its potential for preventing and treating various types of cancers, inhibiting tumor growth and progression, and assisting in adjunctive therapies .
💡Multiple cell studies have shown that sesamin significantly improves the proliferation of human cervical cancer cells while not affecting the proliferation of normal dermal cells .
💡Another cell experiment revealed sesamin’s capability to inhibit the growth of HepG2 cells (liver cancer cells) and induce cell apoptosis, highlighting its potential in new drug development .
3. Sleep Aid
Insomnia is a common sleep disorder affecting people today, with around 30-48% of individuals suffering from sleep disturbances. Research indicates that sesamin can assist in regulating neurotransmitters related to sleep, including serotonin, NDMA, glutamate, and melatonin secretion.
💡Clinical research involving elderly subjects revealed that supplementing with 20 grams of black sesame daily for 12 weeks significantly improved sleep quality without adverse effects .
💡Another clinical study provided subjects with 10 mg of sesamin along with vitamin E, which led to significant improvements in sleep quality and reduced fatigue after 8 weeks .
4. Improves Liver Function
Numerous studies have shown that sesamin can reduce lipid oxidation and enhance liver antioxidant enzymes which improves liver damage.
💡Animal research demonstrated that administering sesamin to animals with induced liver injury significantly reduced liver indices and increased hepatic catalase activity, providing protection against oxidative liver damage .
💡Similar results were observed in another animal study where sesamin supplementation significantly improved liver enzyme activities and concurrently improved the concentrations of total cholesterol, triglycerides, and total bilirubin induced by continuous alcohol intake .
5. Lipid Improvement
Sesamin has a positive effect on liver fatty acid oxidation and blood triglyceride metabolism, which contributes to lipid and cholesterol metabolism improvement and prevents hyperlipidemia .
💡Animal studies showed that administering sesamin to animals with induced hyperlipidemia for 7 weeks led to improvements in total cholesterol, triglycerides, and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL), while at the same time increasing high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL) .
💡In a 28-day study involving animals, supplementation with sesamin significantly improved lipid and cholesterol metabolism, suppressed cholesterol synthesis in the liver, and promoted cholesterol excretion from the liver, which aided in preventing lipid abnormalities .
💡Clinical trials involving individuals with hyperlipidemia found that consuming 5 tablespoons (approximately 40 grams) of hulled sesame seeds daily for 2 months reduced LDL cholesterol by 10% and triglycerides by 8% .
When is the best time to consume sesamin?
Sesamin is fat-soluble, so generally, it is recommended to be taken after meals. Some related studies have also shown significant improvements when participants took sesamin supplements after their meals.
Are there any side effects of taking excessive sesamin?
Many studies have allowed participants to consume higher doses of sesamin without reporting adverse events . Generally, under normal circumstances, consuming sesamin does not lead to side effects. Toxicity studies indicate that daily consumption of up to 280 milligrams per kilogram of body weight of sesamin is safe and does not cause cellular toxicity.
Further Reading: Comparison of 7 Marketed Sleep Sesamin and GABA Products (Sesamin isn’t actually the first!)
Further Reading: Just eating sesame alone isn’t enough! Boosting sleep with food like sesamin and GABA brings better results