The Nutrition Examination Research Digest (NERD) aims to provide rigorous, unbiased analysis of the latest and most important nutrition and supplementation studies. Click here to subscribe or login if already a subscriber .

In this article

Exploring chia seeds for weight loss

Oh no, another superfood fad! Not so fast. This six month trial put chia seeds to a rigorous test, looking for weight loss in patients with type 2 diabetes.

Study under review: Salba-chia (Salvia hispanica L.) in the treatment of overweight and obese patients with type 2 diabetes: A double-blind randomized controlled trial.

Introduction

Chia seeds (Salvia hispanica L.) are a well-known food, partially thanks to the constant marketing of their “superfood” properties. Historically, chia originated in Mexico and has been part of the human diet for about 5,500 years. Although the composition of the seed[1] is variable and depends on the region where it grows, the USDA food database reports that, on average, chia seeds are 16% protein, 30% fat, and 42% carbohydrate by weight. They also boast a high content of fiber (34%) and the omega-3 fatty acid, alpha-linolenic acid (18%).

The nutritional composition of chia seeds, especially the high protein, fiber, and alpha-linolenic acid content, has led to several investigations[2] regarding chia’s health effects and potential as a so-called functional food. Studies on rats have demonstrated that adding chia seeds to the diet leads to favorable changes in blood lipids[3] and can reduce visceral fat and insulin resistance[4]. Several acute studies in healthy adults have reported that eating both milled and whole-seed chia[5] reduces post-meal blood glucose levels and increases satiety when the chia is consumed alongside a standard oral glucose tolerance test[6] or when the chia is baked into white bread[7].

Despite a promising preclinical basis for using chia seeds in the management of metabolic disease risk factors, data on the long-term impact of chia supplementation is scarce and inconsistent[8] (as shown in Figure 1). In healthy adults with overweight or obesity, supplementing chia seeds appears[9] to have[10] little impact[11] on bodyweight or composition, blood lipids, inflammation, or blood pressure. There was also no effect of chia seed supplementation on bodyweight, measures of glycemic control, or blood lipids in patients with type 2 diabetes[12], although it did lead to a significant reduction in blood pressure and C-reactive protein.

Figure 1: Existing RCTs for chia's effect on body composition in overweight/obese subjects

References: Tavares et al. Nutr Hosp. 2014 Dec.
de Souza et al. Nutr Hosp 2015 Nov.

None of the aforementioned interventions lasted longer than 12 weeks, leaving the possibility that the benefits of chia seed supplementation on metabolic disease risk factors may take more time to manifest. The study under review sought to determine the effect of chia seed supplementation over six months in participants with type 2 diabetes, making it the longest intervention to date.

Chia seeds have been investigated as a potential functional food in the management of metabolic diseases due to their high protein, fiber, and omega-3 fatty acid content. Interventions in healthy adults with obesity have not supported a positive effect of chia supplementation on disease risk factors, but an intervention in participants with type 2 diabetes suggests there may be a benefit. The study under review sought to examine the effect of chia seed supplementation in participants with type 2 diabetes over six months.

Who and what was studied?

Become a subscriber to the Nutrition Examination Research Digest to read the full article.

Becoming a member will keep you updated on the most important nutrition studies every month, and give you access to our back catalog of over 500 other articles.

NERD also includes access to Examine Personalized, which includes 150+ monthly summaries on the most important recent studies and access to our database of 10,000+ studies across 600+ health topics.

Stop wasting time and energy — we make it easy for you to stay on top of nutrition research

Try free for a week

Already a member? Please login to read this article.

What were the findings?

Subscribe to the Nutrition Examination Research Digest to unlock this article.

Free 7-day trial!

Already a member? Please login to read this article.

What does the study really tell us?

Subscribe to the Nutrition Examination Research Digest to unlock this article.

Already a member? Please login to read this article.

*The big picture*

Subscribe to the Nutrition Examination Research Digest to unlock this article.

Already a member? Please login to read this article.

Frequently Asked Questions

Subscribe to the Nutrition Examination Research Digest to unlock this article.

Already a member? Please login to read this article.

What should I know?

Subscribe to the Nutrition Examination Research Digest to unlock this article.

Already a member? Please login to read this article.

Other Articles in Issue #29 (March 2017)

  • Should one gram per pound be the new RDA for bodybuilders?
    Protein requirements are actually a controversial topic, and one of the reasons is that study results are a bit mixed. This trial used a fairly new highly accurate method (IAAO) to estimate requirements for bodybuilders.
  • Magnesium for depression
    Depression isn't easy, and one of the reasons is that it can be quite difficult to treat. Magnesium holds some promise, especially given its lack of side effects, and this trial puts it to the test.
  • Does forcing breakfast provide any benefits?
    Some people just don’t feel like eating breakfast, and these people are often lectured to for neglecting their health. But if you make breakfastskippers eat breakfast, what happens to their weight and activity levels?
  • Interview: Jeff Nippard
    Jeff is a competitive natural bodybuilder, who also happens to know a ton about the science of nutrition and training. We pick his brain for some tips and perspective.
  • Can fasting for five days once per month improve your health?
    Fasting has shown health benefits in both humans and animals. But fasting is very, very hard for most people. So what about a diet that isn't quite fasting, but may have similar benefits?
  • Do probiotics and prebiotics reduce infections after surgery?
    Skin protects us from pathogens, making surgery is risky endeavor when it comes to infection. This meta-analysis looked at all the existing trials on probiotics (with or without prebiotics) for infection reduction
  • Interview: Joel Feren APD, AN & Andy De Santis RD, MPH
    Male dietitians are a rare breed. Joel and Andy give us some insight into the profession, along with their views on supplements.