Chia: Tiny Seed with a Powerful Health Punch (continued)


ChiaseedsAnother report, published in the April 2010 European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, found chia seeds may help reduce insulin resistance, decrease abdominal fat, and lower triglycerides. Eleven non-diabetic study participants consumed varying amounts of Salba(R) baked into white bread. Researchers noted the participants blood sugar levels and reported hunger levels. The results of this small study indicate that even small amounts of chia seeds can reduce appetite and prevent postprandial blood sugar spikes.

Several other studies — using laboratory rats and not human subjects — have also yielded promising results.

  • In 2007, researchers at the University of Arizona's Office of Arid Land Studies reported in the Annals of Nutrition and Metabolism, that rats fed whole chia seed, ground chia seed, or chia oil showed significant increases in the fatty acids that reduce the risk of coronary heart disease. The group that ate whole chia seed also reduced their levels of triglycerides, while those whose diet included chia oil increased HDL (the "good" cholesterol).
  • In the January 2009 issue of the British Journal of Nutrition, researchers at the University of Litoral in Argentina, reported that rats eating chia seed did not develop high cholesterol or insulin resistance as expected, while another group that had already developed these conditions reverted to normal.
  • Finally, in the March 22, 2011, isse of the Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry, researchers reported that ALA (alpha-linolenic acid) resulted in improvements in insulin sensitivity, glucose tolerance, and other markers of disease.

Chia research unfortunately is scant and some of it conflicting — what is needed is a large, randomized trial to determine if, in fact, chia is an effective treatment for people with diabetes — the way chia may work its magic on after-meal blood sugar and insulin levels could have to do with "the viscosity of soluble fiber," explains Laura Shane-McWhorter, a professor of pharmacotherapy at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City. In other words, the fiber in chia is gelatinous and coats the intestines in a way that affects the absorption of carbohydrates into the body. 

You may have heard that ALA, the fatty acid in found in chia seeds, has been associated with increased risk of prostate cancer, but the evidence is far from conclusive. A big analysis of the research found that while ALA reduced the risk of heart disease, men with high intake or blood levels of ALA had an increased risk of prostate cancer. Another big analysis published in 2010 came to the opposite conclusion.



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Last Modified Date: June 24, 2013

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  1. Ayerza R Jr, W Coates.2007,.Effect of dietary alpha-linolenic fatty acid derived from chia when fed as ground seed, whole seed and oil on lipid content and fatty acid composition of rat plasma. Ann Nutr Metab. 51(1):27-34.
  2. Brouwer IA, Katan MB, Zock PL. 2004, Dietary alpha-linolenic acid is associated with reduced risk of fatal coronary heart disease, but increased prostate cancer risk: a meta-analysis. J Nutr. 134(4):919-22.
  3. Carayol M, Grosclaude P, Delpierre C. 2010, Prospective studies of dietary alpha-linolenic acid intake and prostate cancer risk: a meta-analysis. Cancer Causes Control. 21(3):347-55.
  4. Chicco, Adriana G., Maria E. D'Alessandro, Gustavo J. Hein, Maria E. Oliva and Yolanda B. Lombardo. 2008. Dietary chia seed (Salvia hispanica L.) rich in -linolenic acid improves adiposity and normalises hypertriacylglycerolaemia and insulin resistance in dyslipaemic rats. British Journal of Nutrition. Published online by Cambridge University Press 20 May 2008 doi:10.1017/S000711450899053X. (Accessed Aug. 26, 2008)
  5. Hoover, Gloria J. 2008. Chia For Health. Bonnie Lake/Buckley, Wash.: Geomantha.
  6. Hoover, Gloria. 2007. Cooking with Chia. Bonnie Lake/Buckley, Wash.: Geomantha.
  7. Poudyal H, Panchal SK, Waanders J, Ward L, Brown L. 2011 Lipid redistribution by -linolenic acid-rich chia seed inhibits stearoyl-CoA desaturase-1 and induces cardiac and hepatic protection in diet-induced obese rats. J Nutr Biochem.2011 Mar 22.
  8. Shane-McWhorter, Laura, e-mail message to author, Sept. 11, 2008.
  9. Shane-McWhorter, Laura. 2008. Dietary Supplements for Diabetes: The Intriguing Intricacies. Presented at the American Association for Diabetes Educators 35th Annual Meeting and Exhibition, Aug. 7, 2008 in Washington, DC.
  10. USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference. (Accessed Sept. 16, 2008.)
  11. Vuksan, Vladimir, Dana Whitham, John L. Sievenpiper, Alexandra L. Jenkins, Alexander L. Rogovik, Richard P. Bazinet, Edward Vidgen, and Amir Hanna. 2007. 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. 30(11):2804-10. (Accessed Aug. 26, 2008)
  12. Vuksan, Vladimir, et al. 2010. Reduction in postprandial glucose excursion and prolongation of satiety: possible explanation of the long-term effects of whole grain Salba (Salvia Hispanica L.). Eur J Clin Nutr. 64(4):436-8. (Accessed May 5, 2010)

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