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).
How does it work?
Chia seeds contain a large amount of healthy omega-3 fatty acids and dietary fiber. Researchers think omega-3 fatty acids and fiber help reduce risk factors for heart disease.
- 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 doesn’t affect all heart disease and stroke risk factors. For example, eating Salba in bread doesn’t seem to lower cholesterol.
- High blood pressure.
- Heart disease and stroke.
- Other conditions.
Side Effects & Safety
Chia seems to be safe when taken for up to 12 weeks. Not enough is known about the safety of using it for a longer period of time.
Special Precautions & Warnings:Pregnancy and breast-feeding: Not enough is known about the use of chia during pregnancy and breast-feeding. Stay on the safe side and avoid use.
High triglycerides: Blood contains several types of fat, including cholesterol and triglycerides. Triglyceride levels are too high in some people. Eating some types of chia can make them even higher. If you have high triglycerides, stick with using a specific variety of chia called Salba. Salba does not significantly increase triglyceride levels.
Prostate cancer: Chia contains a lot of alpha-linolenic acid. Some research suggests that large amounts of alpha-linolenic acid in the diet might increase the chance of getting prostatecancer. If you have prostate cancer or have a high risk of getting it, avoid eating large amounts of chia.
The appropriate dose of chia depends on several factors such as the user's age, health, and several other conditions. At this time there is not enough scientific information to determine an appropriate range of doses for chia. Keep in mind that natural products are not always necessarily safe and dosages can be important. Be sure to follow relevant directions on product labels and consult your pharmacist or physician or other healthcare professional before using.