I couldn’t resist that picture. I’m sure we all remember when Britney shaved her head..obviously they had to make a Britney Chia pet after that! That facial expression is awful! Oh Britney, love that crazy gal.
Anyway, I’m sure at this point, most of you have heard about or tried Chia Seeds. Yes, the same seed that grows everyones favorite gift/plant: chia pets. These seeds are being touted as one of the newest, trendiest, health crazes. Miracle seed? Another “miracle” health food? It sure seems like there are a lot of those….They sort of come and go too. Remember bee pollen? Wheat grass? You don’t hear much about these anymore although at one point, they were a hot topic.
It’s hard to know, or trust, if these health “superfoods” actually live up to their claims. There are usually plenty of products containing the goods, but you never hear about clinical research done to back these products up. Usually, the best you hear is, “this product could or may be associated with (insert something awesome here).”
Although that’s all well and good that they might help, someones always trying to sell a product, and it’s usually an expensive one. So, I’d like to know what has actually occurred during studies of these products, assuming there have been studies.
Chia Seeds, which are native to Mexico and Guatemala, has recently exploded in popularity within the health community. It’s said chia seeds have a high amount of fiber, protein, omega-3 fatty acids, and antioxidants (source). Therefore, there have been multiple claims that the seed aids with weight loss, lowers blood pressure, even helps prevent cancer.
Most of these claims are not backed up by evidence. There have been few studies on chia seeds and most did not find a corralation between chia seeds and weight loss. However, there was evidence of lowered blood pressure (source).
One study conducted in June 2009, recruited 76 men and women, splitting them into a placebo group and a chia seed group. Subjects, (between 20 and 70 years old), were given the same amount of chia seeds/placebo with water before their first and last meals (source). Obviously, the difference between a 20 year old male and a 70 year old is huge, so I thought that was an interesting choice. The study also measured everyone’s body mass and composition and blood pressure (among other things) before and after the 12 weeks. This was a single blind study-meaning the subjects did not know if they were ingesting chia seeds or placeba, but the researchers did know.
They concluded that, “ingestion of 50 g/d CS (chia) vs P for 12 weeks by overweight/obese men and women had no influence on body mass or composition, or various disease risk factor measures” (source).
But that’s just one study.
Another study did find a correlation between chia seeds and cardiovascular disease but only on subjects with type 2 diabetes. The study gave 20 “well controlled subjects” Salba (Salvia hispanica or chia) for 6 months (source). The subjects were given the placebo and Salba through breads and ground up versions of both. Like any good study, they made sure both breads looked exactly alike and were made with ingredients that wouldn’t alter their conclusions (except placebo versus Salba).
They found that the Salba subjects did improve cardiovascular risk factors while maintaining good glycemic and lipid control in type 2 diabetes ( source).
Interesting stuff. So, it seems that chia does have potential to be that health superstar everyone claims it is. For now, since there aren’t a lot of studies out there, I guess we just need to trust our gut on whether purchasing these “superstars” are worth it. Again, how do you know what the truth is versus what’s simply marketing?
Even though some studies may be inconclusive, the nutrition facts do show that chia seeds have a great deal of fiber and omega-3’s which are good for the body. So, sprinkling them in your oatmeal, making pudding, or blending them in your shake probably doesn’t hurt. You can see why they would be linked to weight loss since anything with a signifiant amount of fiber usually is.
Do you use Chia seeds? Is there a health food superstar you swear by?