Chia Seeds Health Benefits
Chia seeds health benefits include an ability to enhance prostate health and overall health due to their high antioxidant content. The chia (Salvia hispanica) is a species of flowering plant that is native to Guatemala and Mexico, where it is still widely used for food and in beverages.
Chia seeds are similar to flax in that they are rich sources of omega-3 fatty acids (especially alpha-linolenic acid, or ALA), antioxidants, and fiber. However, chia seeds, which have a nutlike flavor, are superior to flax for these nutrients. In addition, there are other chia seeds health benefits over flax. One advantage is they do not need to be ground to make their nutrients bioavailable to the body. Chia seeds also are so high in antioxidants, the seeds can be stored for long periods without going rancid. Chia seeds are also a good source of calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, molybdenum, niacin, phosphorus, and zinc. (Weil)
More Chia Seeds Health Benefits
An animal study published in the British Journal of Nutrition reported on the effect of chia seeds fed to rats on a high-sugar diet. The seeds prevented the onset of high lipid levels and insulin resistance and also reduced visceral fat. (Chicco 2009) In a human study, 11 healthy individuals participated in a randomized, double-blind trial in which participants received 0, 7, 15, or 24 grams of chia baked into white bread. Researchers noted a dose-related reduction in blood glucose and appetite during the two-hour period after all three chia seed breads were consumed. The study authors concluded that their finding “provides a potential explanation for improvements in blood pressure, coagulation and inflammatory markers previously observed after 12-week Salba [Salvia] supplementation in type II diabetes.” (Vuksan 2010)
A Canadian study set out to determine whether adding chia seed to the diet of people who have type 2 diabetes would improve cardiovascular risk factors. The single-blind, crossover trial involved 20 adults (average age, 64 years) who were randomly assigned to take either about 37 grams per day of chia or wheat bran (controls) for 12 weeks. All the participants continued to take their conventional diabetes therapies.
Compared with study participants who consumed wheat bran, those who received chia seed experienced a reduction in systolic blood pressure, C-reactive protein, and von Willebrand factor. Chia seeds health benefits also included a decline in hemoglobin A1c and fibrinogen compared to baseline levels but not with controls. The study’s authors concluded that supplementation with chia reduced one major cardiovascular risk factor (systolic blood pressure) and two emerging factors (C-reactive protein and von Willebrand factor) beyond conventional diabetes therapy. (Vuksan 2010)
Despite reports that chia seeds health benefits include help with weight loss, a recent study published in Nutrition Research found otherwise. Researchers from Appalachian State University conducted a randomized, single-blind trial in which 76 disease-free, overweight or obese adults consumed either placebo or 25 grams of chia seeds mixed in water twice daily before the first and last meal for 12 weeks. The only change seen after 12 weeks was an increase in the level of alpha-linolenic acid in the chia seed group compared with a decrease in the placebo group. Therefore, the authors concluded that chia seeds for 12 weeks in overweight or obese individuals “had no influence on body mass or composition, or various disease risk factor measures.” (Nieman 2009)
How to Use Chia
Chia is a food and not a supplement, so there is no dose amount. However, 10 grams per day (about a dessert spoonful) added to or mixed with food is a typical starting amount. If you want to explore chia seeds health benefits, consult a knowledgeable healthcare professional before using the seeds, especially if you have intestinal problems.
Chicco AG et al. Dietary chia seed (Salvia hispanica L) rich in alpha-linolenic acid improves adiposity and normalizes hypertriacylglcerolaemia and insulin resistance in dyslipaemic rats. Br J Nutr 2009 Jan; 101(1): 41-50
Nieman DC et al. Chia seed does not promote weight loss or alter disease risk factors in overweight adults. Nutr Res 2009 Jun; 29(6): 414-18
Vuksan V et al. Reduction in postprandial glucose excursion and prolongation of satiety: possible explanation of the long-term effects of whole grain Salva (Salvia hispanica L) Eur J Clin Nutr 2010 Apr; 64(4): 436-38
Vuksan V et al. Supplementation of conventional therapy with the novel grain Salba (Salvia hispanica L) improves major and emerging cardiovascular risk factors in type 2 diabetes: results of a randomized controlled trial. Diabetes Care 2007 Nov; 30(11): 2804-10