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, improving exercise performance, high blood pressure, reducing the risk of heart disease, reducing a group of conditions that increase the risk of heart disease, and weight loss.).

Chia is applied to the skin for itchy skin (pruritus).

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. Some early research shows 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.
  • High blood pressure. Early research suggests that taking 35 grams per day of chia flour for 12 weeks reduces blood pressure in people with high blood pressure. It seems to work best in people already taking medicine to lower their blood pressure.
  • A group of conditions that increase the risk of heart disease (metabolic syndrome). Early research shows that eating 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. Still, drinking the chia beverage seems to lower triglyceride levels and improve blood sugar compared to only reducing calorie intake.
  • Itching. Early research shows that applying lotion containing chia seed oil to the skin for 8 weeks reduces itching.
  • Other conditions. word
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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How does Chia 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.

Are there safety concerns?

Chia is POSSIBLY SAFE Early research shows that applying lotion containing chia seed oil to the skin for 8 weeks reduces itching.

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 blood fats called 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 prostate cancer. If you have prostate cancer or have a high risk of getting it, avoid eating large amounts of chia.

Dosing considerations for 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.

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Reviewed on 3/29/2011 12:35:40 PM

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