May 6, 2016

Chia

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What other names is Chia known by?

Chía, Chia Fresca, Chia Grain, Chia Oil, Chia Seed, Chia Sprout, Germe de Chia, Graine de Chia, Graine de Salba, Huile de Chia, Pinole, S. Hispanica, Salba, Salba Grain, Salvia hispanica, Salvia Hispanica L.

What is Chia?

When you hear "chia," you may think of "Chia Pets." These are clay figures sold in the US that support the growth of chia sprouts. But chia has a much longer history as a medicinal herb. It originated in Mexico and was cultivated by the Aztecs. Today, chia is grown commercially in Central America and South America. It is grown mainly for its seed, which is a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids.

People use chia seed for diabetes, high blood pressure, and for generally reducing the risk of heart disease and stroke (cardiovascular disease).

Possibly Ineffective for...

  • Weight loss. Consuming chia seeds mixed with water twice daily before meals for 12 weeks does not improve body composition or reduce blood pressure in people who are overweight or obese. Also, eating milled or whole chia seeds daily for 10 weeks does not improve body composition or blood pressure in overweight women.

Insufficient Evidence to Rate Effectiveness for...

  • Diabetes. People who have diabetes are more likely than other people to develop heart disease and stroke (cardiovascular disease). There is some evidence that people with diabetes can lower their high risk by eating bread that contains a particular type of chia called Salba (Salba Nutritional Solutions). The dose of Salba that is needed to lower heart disease and stroke risk is 37 grams per day for 12 weeks. This dose seems to reduce blood pressure and lower the levels of C-reactive protein and von Willebrand factor in the blood. C-reactive protein is a "marker" for inflammation, a process that some researchers think is responsible for some forms of heart disease. Less C-reactive protein means there is less inflammation. Von Willebrand factor is involved in blood clotting. Less von Willebrand factor may mean that fewer clots that could cause a heart attack or stroke are formed. However, eating Salba does not affect all heart disease and stroke risk factors. For example, eating Salba in bread doesn't seem to lower cholesterol.
  • Exercise performance. Early research suggests that trained athletes who drink a beverage containing 50% of calories from chia seeds (Green Plus Omega 3 Chia seeds) and 50% from Gatorade for 2 days before completing an endurance exercise perform similarly to athletes who drink just Gatorade alone.
  • Metabolic syndrome. Early research suggests that consuming 500 fewer calories daily and drinking a beverage containing soy protein, nopal, chia seed, and oat daily for 2 months can reduce body weight, body mass index, and waist circumference in people with metabolic syndrome. However, people who just reduce calorie intake have similar results. Nonetheless, drinking the chia beverage seems to lower triglyceride levels and improve blood sugar compared to only reducing calorie intake.
  • Itching. Early research suggests that applying lotion containing chia seed oil to the skin daily for 8 weeks reduces itching.
  • High blood pressure.
  • Heart disease and stroke.
  • Other conditions.
More evidence is needed to rate the effectiveness of chia for these uses.

Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database rates effectiveness based on scientific evidence according to the following scale: Effective, Likely Effective, Possibly Effective, Possibly Ineffective, Likely Ineffective, and Insufficient Evidence to Rate (detailed description of each of the ratings).


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