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Chia

Scientific Name(s): Salvia columbariae Benth., Salvia hispanicaI L.
Common Name(s): Chia, Salba

Medically reviewed by Drugs.com. Last updated on Nov 1, 2018.

Clinical Overview

Use

Findings from small clinical studies are equivocal with regard to the effect of chia seed supplementation in type 2 diabetes and hypertension. Evidence is lacking to support a purported use as a weight-loss supplement in the absence of other dietary restrictions.

Dosing

Adequate clinical studies are lacking to inform dosing guidelines. Milled chia seed 25 to 50 g daily in divided doses has been used in studies evaluating efficacy in patients with type 2 diabetes. Lesser amounts (around 15 g) have been proposed as a nutritional supplement to provide dietary fiber and unsaturated fatty acids.

Contraindications

Not yet established, aside from allergy to chia or related species.

Pregnancy/Lactation

Avoid use until a lack of toxicological effects has been established. Information regarding safety and efficacy in pregnancy and lactation is lacking.

Interactions

Caution is warranted if used concurrently with anticoagulants (eg, warfarin) or antiplatelet agents (eg, aspirin, clopidogrel, prasugrel) due to case reports with related species.

Adverse Reactions

Limited clinical studies exist; however, no clinically important adverse effects have been reported.

Toxicology

Information regarding the toxicity of chia is limited.

Scientific Family

  • Lamiaceae (mint)

Botany

S. hispanica L. and S. columbariae Benth. are both considered to be chia and are related to Salvia miltiorrhiza (danshen) and Salvia officinalis (sage) (see also Danshen and Sage monographs). Chia is an annual herb growing up to 1 m in height and able to thrive in arid conditions. The flowering part of the plant is at the end of the stem, with purple or white fused flowers developing in clusters. The seeds are small and oval in shape (1 to 2 mm in diameter) and are mottled brown, gray, black, and white.Mohd 2012, USDA 2014

History

Chia seed was used in the ancient Aztec diet and considered an energy food used by messengers and runners. It has gained popularity as a functional food.Adams 2005, Ulbricht 2009

Chemistry

Chia seeds are a source of carbohydrates, dietary fiber, protein, and fat. The seeds contain approximately 250 to 390 g of oil/kg, with the majority as polyunsaturated omega-3 alpha-linolenic acid, and smaller amounts of omega-6 linoleic acid as well as monounsaturated and saturated fat. Vitamins A, B1, B2, B3, C, and E have been identified and elements that include calcium, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorous, potassium, sodium, and zinc. Chia seeds do not contain gluten. The composition of the seeds varies under differing environmental conditions. Phenolic compounds, including myricetin, quercetin, kaempferols, and caffeic acid, have been identified. Chia roots are reported to contain tanshinones.Adams 2005, Ayerza 2009, Capitani 2013, Ixtaina 2008, Mohd 2012, Olivos-Lugo 2010, Peiretti 2009, Sandoval-Oliveros 2013

Uses and Pharmacology

Antidiabetic effects

Animal data

A decrease in insulin resistance was observed in a study in rats.Oliva 2013

Clinical data

Limited small studies conducted by a single group of researchers have demonstrated decreased postprandial glycemia in healthy volunteers,Ho 2013, Vuksan 2010 but not in patients with type 2 diabetes.Vuksan 2007 A study conducted among people with metabolic syndrome (N = 67) found a decrease in blood glucose with consumption of chia seeds in combination with other measuresMohd 2012; however, among overweight adults (N = 90), there was no change in glucose levels with chia seed 50 g daily supplementation over 12 weeks.Mohd 2009

Cardiovascular effects

Animal data

There are no animal data regarding the use of chia seeds or oil for antihypertensive effect.

Clinical data

A small clinical study conducted in 21 patients with type 2 diabetes reported a decrease in systolic blood pressure (6.3 mm Hg [+/− 4 mm]; P < 0.001) after 12 weeks of chia seed supplementation.Vuksan 2007 Decreases in C-reactive protein and von Willebrand factor were also noted. No change in blood pressure or other cardiovascular markers were found among 90 overweight participants who supplemented their diet with chia seeds 50 g daily for 12 weeks.Nieman 2009

Lipid effects

Animal data

Supplementation with chia seed increased polyunsaturated fat content in chicken eggs and improved nutritional quality of meat in chickens, rabbits, and pigs.Ayerza 2002, Coates 2009, Oliva 2013, Peiretti 2008

Clinical data

In a small clinical study (N = 10), consumption of chia seed 25 g/day over 7 weeks resulted in an increase in plasma alpha-linolenic acid and eicosapentaenoic acid.Jin 2012 No change in the lipid profile, body mass, or composition occurred in 90 overweight participants who supplemented their diet with chia seeds 50 g daily for 12 weeks.Nieman 2009

Other uses

A study evaluating chia seed as a source of energy found enhanced endurance, not performance, among athletes.Illian 2011 Chia oil inhibited the growth and metastasis of adenocarcinoma in mice, possibly due to the omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid content.Espada 2007 Topically, the oil acted as an emollient in a small study of pruritus.Jeong 2010 Chia has been used as alternative ingredients to eggs and oil in cakes.Borneo 2010

Dosing

Adequate clinical studies are lacking to inform dosing guidelines. Milled chia seed 25 to 50 g/day in divided doses has been used in studies evaluating efficacy in type 2 diabetes.14, Nieman 2009 Lesser amounts (around 15 g) have been proposed as a nutritional supplement to provide dietary fiber and unsaturated fatty acids.Jones 2012

Pregnancy / Lactation

Avoid use until a lack of toxicological effects has been established. Information regarding safety and efficacy in pregnancy and lactation is lacking. Related S. officinalis (sage) exhibits emmenagogue and abortifacient effects; however, S. miltiorrhiza has been used for pregnancy-related hypertension.Ernst 2002

Interactions

Cases reports cite enhanced anticoagulation and bleeding in patients on long-term warfarin who consumed related S. miltiorrhiza (danshen), and so a similar effect might be seen with the root of S. hispanica and S. columbariae due to the presence of tanshinones. Caution is therefore warranted if chia is used concurrently with anticoagulants (eg, warfarin) or antiplatelet agents (eg, aspirin, clopidogrel, prasugrel).Adams 2005, Cheng 2007, Ernst 2002, Hu 2005

Adverse Reactions

Limited clinical studies exist.Vuksan 2007 A case report of complete distal esophageal obstruction by a gel of hydrated chia seeds was reported in an adult 12 hours after consuming a tablespoon of dry chia seeds followed by a glass of water. His medical history was positive for asthma, seasonal allergies, and a long history of intermittent dysphagia to solids.Rawl 2014

Toxicology

Information regarding the toxicity of chia is limited. A study in chickens found a decrease in egg production among white hens who received chia seed in amounts greater than 140 g.Ayerza 2000

References

Adams JD, Wall M, Garcia C. Salvia columbariae contains tanshinones. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2005;2(1):107-110.15841285
Ayerza R. The seed's protein and oil content, fatty acid composition, and growing cycle length of a single genotype of chia (Salvia hispanica L.) as affected by environmental factors. J Oleo Sci. 2009;58(7):347-354.19491529
Ayerza R, Coates W. Dietary levels of chia: influence on yolk cholesterol, lipid content and fatty acid composition for two strains of hens. Poult Sci. 2000;79(5):724-739.10824962
Ayerza R, Coates W, Lauria M. Chia seed (Salvia hispanica L.) as an omega-3 fatty acid source for broilers: influence on fatty acid composition, cholesterol and fat content of white and dark meats, growth performance, and sensory characteristics. Poult Sci. 2002;81(6):826-837.12079050
Borneo R, Aguirre A, León AE. Chia (Salvia hispanica L) gel can be used as egg or oil replacer in cake formulations. J Am Diet Assoc. 2010;110(6):946-949.20497788
Capitani MI, Ixtaina VY, Nolasco SM, Tomás MC. Microstructure, chemical composition and mucilage exudation of chia (Salvia hispanica L.) nutlets from Argentina. J Sci Food Agric. 2013;93(15):3856-3862.23900918
Cheng TO. Cardiovascular effects of danshen. Int J Cardiol. 2007;121(1):9-22.17363091
Coates W, Ayerza R. Chia (Salvia hispanica L.) seed as an n-3 fatty acid source for finishing pigs: effects on fatty acid composition and fat stability of the meat and internal fat, growth performance, and meat sensory characteristics. J Anim Sci. 2009;87(11):3798-3804.19648503
Ernst E. Herbal medicinal products during pregnancy: are they safe? BJOG. 2002;109(3):227-235.11950176
Espada CE, Berra MA, Martinez MJ, Eynard AR, Pasqualini ME. 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. 2007;77(1):21-28.17618100
Ho H, Lee AS, Jovanovski E, Jenkins AL, Desouza R, Vuksan V. Effect of whole and ground salba seeds (Salvia hispanica L.) on postprandial glycemia in healthy volunteers: a randomized controlled, dose-response trial. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2013;67(7):786-788.23778782
Hu Z, Yang X, Ho PC, et al. Herb-drug interactions: a literature review. Drugs. 2005;65(9):1239-1282.15916450
Illian TG, Casey JC, Bishop PA. Omega 3 chia seed loading as a means of carbohydrate loading. J Strength Cond Res. 2011;25(1):61-65.21183832
Ixtaina VY, Nolasco SM, Tomás MC. Physical properties of chia (Salvia hispanica L.) seeds. Ind Crops Prod. 2008;28(3):286-293.
Jeong SK, Park HJ, Park BD, Kim IH. Effectiveness of topical chia seed oil on pruritus of end-stage renal disease (ESRD) patients and healthy volunteers. Ann Dermatol. 2010;22(2):143-148.20548903
Jin F, Nieman DC, Sha W, Xie G, Qiu Y, Jia W. Supplementation of milled chia seeds Increases plasma ALA and EPA in postmenopausal women. Plant Foods Hum Nutr. 2012;67(2):105-110.22538527
Jones C. Advisory Committee on Novel Foods and Processes. Opinion on an application under the novel food regulation for additional uses of chia seed. Food Standards Agency website. http://multimedia.food.gov.uk/multimedia/pdfs/chialetop.pdf. Published March 2012. Accessed July 25, 2014.
Mohd Ali N, Yeap SK, Ho WY, Beh BK, Tan SW, Tan SG. The promising future of chia, Salvia hispanica L. J Biomed Biotechnol. 2012;2012:171956.2325107510.1155/2012/171956
Nieman DC, Cayea EJ, Austin MD, Henson DA, McAnulty SR, Jin F. Chia seed does not promote weight loss or alter disease risk factors in overweight adults. Nutr Res. 2009;29(6):414-418.19628108
Oliva ME, Ferreira MR, Chicco A, Lombardo YB. Dietary Salba (Salvia hispanica L) seed rich in alpha-linolenic acid improves adipose tissue dysfunction and the altered skeletal muscle glucose and lipid metabolism in dyslipidemic insulin-resistant rats. Prostaglandins Leukot Essent Fatty Acids. 2013;89(5):279-289.24120122
Olivos-Lugo BL, Valdivia-López MÁ, Tecante A. Thermal and physicochemical properties and nutritional value of the protein fraction of Mexican chia seed (Salvia hispanica L.). Food Sci Technol Int. 2010;16(1):89-96.21339125
Peiretti PG, Gai F. Fatty acid and nutritive quality of chia (Salvia hispanica L.) seeds and plant during growth. Anim Feed Sci Technol. 2009;148(2-4):267-275.
Peiretti PG, Meineri G. Effects on growth performance, carcass characteristics, and the fat and meat fatty acid profile of rabbits fed diets with chia (Salvia hispanica L.) seed supplements. Meat Sci. 2008;80(4):1116-1121.22063845
Rawl R, Browne L. Watch it grow: esophageal impaction with chia seeds. Paper presented at: American College of Gastroenterology; October 17-22, 2014; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Salvia columbariae. USDA, NRCS. 2014. The PLANTS Database (http://plants.usda.gov, 7 April 2014). National Plant Data Center, Greensboro, NC 27401-4901 USA.
Sandoval-Oliveros MR, Paredes-López O. Isolation and characterization of proteins from chia seeds (Salvia hispanica L.). J Agric Food Chem. 2013;61(1):193-201.23240604
Ulbricht C, Chao W, Nummy K, et al. Chia (Salvia hispanica): a systematic review by the natural standard research collaboration. Rev Recent Clin Trials. 2009;4(3):168-174.20028328
Vuksan V, Jenkins AL, Dias AG, et al. Reduction in postprandial glucose excursion and prolongation of satiety: possible explanation of the long-term effects of whole grain salba (Salvia hispanica L.). Eur J Clin Nutr. 2010;64(4):436-438.20087375
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. 2007;30(11):2804-2810.17686832

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This information relates to an herbal, vitamin, mineral or other dietary supplement. This product has not been reviewed by the FDA to determine whether it is safe or effective and is not subject to the quality standards and safety information collection standards that are applicable to most prescription drugs. This information should not be used to decide whether or not to take this product. This information does not endorse this product as safe, effective, or approved for treating any patient or health condition. This is only a brief summary of general information about this product. It does NOT include all information about the possible uses, directions, warnings, precautions, interactions, adverse effects, or risks that may apply to this product. This information is not specific medical advice and does not replace information you receive from your health care provider. You should talk with your health care provider for complete information about the risks and benefits of using this product.

This product may adversely interact with certain health and medical conditions, other prescription and over-the-counter drugs, foods, or other dietary supplements. This product may be unsafe when used before surgery or other medical procedures. It is important to fully inform your doctor about the herbal, vitamins, mineral or any other supplements you are taking before any kind of surgery or medical procedure. With the exception of certain products that are generally recognized as safe in normal quantities, including use of folic acid and prenatal vitamins during pregnancy, this product has not been sufficiently studied to determine whether it is safe to use during pregnancy or nursing or by persons younger than 2 years of age.

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