Health Care Professional Information

Scientific Name
Salvia hispanica
Common Name

Chia, Salba

Clinical Summary

The seeds of Chia plant, which is native to Central and South America, have been consumed as food since ancient times. They are high in dietary fiber, n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid (PUFA) and alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), and have been used as dietary supplements for cardiovascular health and for weight loss.

Chia seeds were shown to prevent onset of dyslipidemia (1) (6), reverse insulin resistance (1), and confer cardio- and hepatoprotective effects in obese mice (7). However, Chia did not benefit overweight adults in clinical studies (3), but may help patients with type 2 diabetes (4). Further research is needed.

Chia seeds demonstrated anti-cancer properties (2) in mice, but human studies have not been conducted.

Purported Uses
  • Weight loss
Constituents
Mechanism of Action

The beneficial effects of Chia seeds may be due to complex carbohydrates, vegetable protein, n-3 PUFAs, dietary fiber, minerals, antioxidants, and their combined effects. Further studies are needed to isolate the components responsible for such effects.

Herb-Drug Interactions
  • May potentiate the effects of anti-diabetic medications.
  • May increase the effects of antihypertensive medications.
Herb Lab Interactions
  • High amounts of n-3 PUFAs could lead to altered bleeding and clotting times (5).
  • May reduce blood sugar levels.
Literature Summary and Critique

Vuksan V, Whitham D, Sievenpiper JL, et al. 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. Nov 2007;30(11):2804-2810.
Twenty patients with type 2 diabetes were randomized to receive 37 g of Salba or wheat bran daily. for 12 weeks. This was followed by a 6- week washout. Subjects were then switched to the other arm for another 12 week treatment period. At weeks 0 and 12, fasting blood samples were collected. Compared to baseline, systolic blood pressure, high sensitivity C-reactive protein, von Willebrand factor, A1C and fibrinogen were significantly decreased in the salba group. Because such decreases are associated with a reduction in cardiovascular disease risk, salba may benefit those at an increased risk.

Nieman DC, Cayea EJ, Austin MD, et al. Chia seed does not promote weight loss or alter disease risk factors in overweight adults. Nutr Res. Jun 2009;29(6):414-418.
Ninety overweight adults were randomized to receive two 25 gm servings of Chia seeds or placebo daily for 12 weeks. No changes in body mass, body composition, serum lipoprotein, serum glucose, systolic blood pressure or serum CRP were observed in the Chia group compared to placebo group. Further studies are warranted.

References
  1. Chicco AG, D'Alessandro ME, Hein GJ, et al. Dietary chia seed (Salvia hispanica L.) rich in alpha-linolenic acid improves adiposity and normalises hypertriacylglycerolaemia and insulin resistance in dyslipaemic rats. Br J Nutr. Jan 2009;101(1):41-50.
  2. Espada CE, Berra MA, Martinez MJ, et al. Effect of Chia oil (Salvia Hispanica) rich in omega-3 fatty acids on the eicosanoid release, apoptosis and T-lymphocyte tumor infiltration in a murine mammary gland adenocarcinoma. Prostaglandins Leukot Essent Fatty Acids. Jul 2007;77(1):21-28.
  3. Nieman DC, Cayea EJ, Austin MD, et al. Chia seed does not promote weight loss or alter disease risk factors in overweight adults. Nutr Res. Jun 2009;29(6):414-418.
  4. Vuksan V, Whitham D, Sievenpiper JL, et al. 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. Nov 2007;30(11):2804-2810.
  5. Schmidt EB, Nielsen LK, Pedersen JO, et al. The effect of n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids on lipids, platelet function, coagulation, fibrinolysis and monocyte chemotaxis in patients with hypertension.Clin Chim Acta. Jul 1990;189(1):25-32.
  6. Chicco AG, D'Alessandro ME, Hein GJ, Oliva ME, Lombardo YB. Dietary chia seed (Salvia hispanica L.) rich in alpha-linolenic acid improves adiposity and normalises hypertriacylglycerolaemia and insulin resistance in dyslipaemic rats. Br J Nutr. 2009 Jan;101(1):41-50.
  7. Poudyal H, Panchal SK, Waanders J, Ward L, Brown L. Lipid redistribution by á-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. [Epub ahead of print]

Consumer Information

How It Works

Bottom Line: Chia may have some nutritional benefits, but it has not been shown to treat or prevent cancer. More research is necessary.

The seeds of Chia plant are rich in fiber and alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), a type of essential fatty acid. They are thought to be useful for weight loss and reducing risk of heart disease. Data from human studies showed that Chia seeds may help to regulate blood sugar but do not affect weight loss. Oil from Chia seeds demonstrated anticancer effects in labs but this has not been shown in humans.

Purported Uses
  • Weight Loss
    Results from a clinical trial showed that Chia did not affect weight loss. More studies are needed.
Research Evidence

Cardiovascular health
Twenty patients with type 2 diabetes were randomly assigned to receive 37 g of Salba or wheat bran daily for 12 weeks. This was followed by a 6-week period of no treatment. Subjects were then switched to the other arm for 12 weeks. At weeks 0 and 12, fasting blood samples were collected. Compared to baseline, systolic blood pressure, high sensitivity C-reactive protein, von Willebrand factor, A1C and fibrinogen were significantly decreased in the salba group. Because such decreases are associated with a reduction in cardiovascular disease risk, salba may benefit those at an increased risk.

Weight Loss
In this study, 90 overweight adults received two 25 gm servings of Chia seeds or placebo daily for 12 weeks. No changes in body mass, body composition, serum lipoprotein, serum glucose, systolic blood pressure or serum CRP were observed in the Chia group compared to placebo group. Further studies are warranted.

Do Not Take If
  • Chia seeds may increase the adverse effects of prescription drugs for blood sugar and for blood pressure. Patients using these medications should speak to a physician before using Chia supplements.
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