Chia Seeds Have Many Proven Health Benefits

Summary
Chia seeds, a rich dietary source of α-linolenic acid (ALA), were tested for controlling metabolic disorders like dyslipidaemia (or high blood cholesterol and triglycerides) and insulin resistance (IR) or Type 2 diabetes in rats. Two experiments were performed, first to test the efficacy of the chia seed as a preventative measure, and second to test the seed’s ability to reverse or improve metabolic abnormalities in rats. The results of this study showed that chia seeds as a dietary source of fat reduced the adiposity, or heaviness, in rats. “The present study provides new data regarding the beneficial effect of chia seed upon lipid and glucose homeostasis.”

Introduction
The progression and control of several metabolic disorders, like type 2 diabetes and dyslipidaemia, are dictated by variations in diet patterns. Studies have shown that blood cholesterol, fat synthesis, body weight and cholesterol deposition were all lowered with the intake of α-linolenic acid. Chia seeds are a primary plant source of ALA and could be added in the diet to achieve these beneficial effects.

Methodology

  • Experiment 1: 72 rats were divided into three groups and fed a given diet for three weeks. The control diet contained maize starch (as a carbohydrate) and maize oil as the source of fat. The other two groups received a diet of sucrose (as the carbohydrate) and fat provided by either maize oil (SRD) or by chia seed (SRD + chia).
  • Experiment 2: 96 rats were divided into two groups and fed for three months with the control diet or SRD. Rats in the SRD group were subdivided into three subgroups, out of which the first subgroup was immediately killed for each procedure. The rats in the second subgroup were fed with the SRD up to five months and the third subgroup received the SRD + chia seed as the source of dietary fat for the next two months.
  • Blood samples were drawn for estimation of cholesterol, serum lipids, glucose and  insulin.

Results

  • The rats on chia seeds recorded a lower weight gain than the other groups.
  • Less fat deposition was observed in the group on SRD + chia seed diet, compared to the other two groups.
  • Chia seeds were able to successfully avert the increase in bad plasma, hence reducing total cholesterol.
  • Plasma glucose and insulin levels remained unaltered across all the groups.

Shortcoming/next steps

The changes in the composition of lipids could lead to normal levels of peripheral insulin resistance. This is an untapped area that needs further research. Also, since the efficacy of converting dietary ALA is low, care should be taken to extend these results to apply to humans.

Conclusion
This study explicitly shows that chia seeds in the diet could prevent the start of dyslipidemia. Also, the plasma glucose values did not vary and insulin resistance was averted. The circulating insulin remained the same, but the increase in cholesterol and insulin resistance was reversed. The overall body weight or energy consumption did not report any variations but the stored fats did get reduced. “Thus, in the present study, the enhancement of peripheral insulin sensitivity may be largely a result of the significant action of chia seed to decrease circulating lipids and enhance whole-body glucose metabolism.” In conclusion, when added to the diet, chia seeds prove to be highly beneficial in the metabolism of glucose and lipids.

For More Information:
Chia Seed Improves Weight and Normalizes Hypertriacylglycerolaemia and Insulin Resistance in Dyslipaemic Rats
Publication Journal: British Journal of Nutrition, 2009
By Adriana G. Chicco; Maria E. D’Alessandro; School of Biochemistry, University of Litoral, Ciudad Universitaria Paraje El Pozo, Santa Fe, Argentina

*FYI Living Lab Reports Are Summaries of the Original Research.
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