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As early as 1500 BC, chia seeds were consumed by Mayan and Aztec people in Central America as a food known for its therapeutic qualities. Chia and flax are nutritionally dense sources of essential fatty acids and dietary fiber, both well-established nutrients for supporting heart health. Fiber is also vital for a healthy digestive system.*

Heart health

Chia and flax contain two important nutrients to support heart health, essential fatty acids and dietary fiber.

The connection between dietary fiber and heart health is well-established. As stated earlier, the Institute of Medicine established the adequate intake for fiber based on the median fiber intake level observed to achieve the lowest risk of coronary heart disease (CHD).

A review of nine major clinical studies reported that ALA levels are inversely correlated with primary cardiovascular events. Additionally, the Lyon Diet Heart Study, a secondary prevention trial designed to reduce the risk of CVD deaths in survivors of a heart attack found that ALA was associated with a decreased risk of recurrent myocardial infarction. 302 men and women who ate a Mediterranean-type diet rich in ALA had a 70% reduction in their risk of heart attack compared with the 303 men and women in the control group who ate a diet that resembled the American Heart Association diet.

In other clinical studies, it was found that eating 3-6 tbsp (30-50 g) of milled flax daily for as little as 4 weeks significantly reduced blood total and LDL-cholesterol. In healthy adults, blood total cholesterol decreased 6-13% and LDL cholesterol decreased 9-18%.

  1. 2015 – 2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. 8th Edition.

    U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and U.S. Department of Agriculture, 2015 – 2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. 8th Edition., 2015

Weight management

Dietary fiber consumption is believed to contribute to lower body weights. This may be in part to fiber’s ability to increase feelings of satiety. Ayaz et al. studied the satiety effects of chia seed on 24 healthy subjects using a randomized, cross-over design study and found that participants reported significantly lower scores for hunger, prospective food consumption, amounts of food that could be consumed, desire for sugary foods, and higher scores for satiety on study days with 7 g and 14 g chia seed when compared to control (10). In a randomized, controlled, cross-over study of 15 healthy subjects, researchers found that compared to placebo, 25 g chia reduced all satiety measurements (desire to eat, hunger, fullness, prospective consumption, overall appetite) and 31.5 g ground flax reduced all satiety measures except prospective consumption.

Results from a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled cross-over trial found that appetite ratings were decreased in individuals consuming Chia in high, medium and low amounts (24 g, 15 g, 7 g, respectively) compared to control. The effects on reducing appetite ratings appeared dose-dependent with the high dose (24 g) reducing appetite after 60, 90 and 120 minutes, medium dose (15 g) after 90 and 120 minutes and low dose (7 g) after 120 minutes.

Additionally, a 2012 meta-analysis found that individuals with increased dietary fiber and whole grain consumption showed a reduction in weight gain longitudinally.

  1. Chia seed (Salvia Hispanica L.) added yogurt reduces short-term food intake and increases satiety: randomised, controlled trial

    Ayaz A, Akyol A, Inan-Eroglu E, Kabasakal A., N Research and Practice, 2017

  2. Comparison of flax (Linum usitatissimum) and Salba-chia (Salvia hispanica L.) seeds on postprandial glycemia and satiety in healthy individuals: a randomized, controlled, crossover study.

    Vuksan V, Choleva L, Jovanovski E, Jenkins A et al., EJCN, 2017

  3. Reduction in postprandial glucose excursion and prolongation of satiety: possible explanation of the long-term effects of whole grain Salvia Hispanica L.

    Vuksan V, Jenkins A, Dias A, Lee A et al., EJCN, 2010

  4. Position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: Health Implications of Dietary Fiber

    Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, JAND, 2015

Vegan / vegetarian dietary gaps

While it is recognized that well-planned vegetarian and vegan diets are consistent with good health, it is important to be aware of inadequacies if nutrient-dense choices are not made.

In its position on Vegetarian diets, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND) highlights the importance of omega-3 fatty acids in the diet. Since dietary intakes of long-chain fatty acids, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) are lower in those consuming a vegetarian diet and essentially absent in those consuming a vegan diet, it is vital to consume plant sources that are rich in these nutrients. Flax and chia are two of the most concentrated plant sources of omega-3 fatty acids (Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA)). EPA and DHA are endogenously synthesized from ALA. Therefore, it is the position of The AND that omega-3 needs of healthy individuals can be sufficiently met through ALA entirely.

Similar to The AND’s position, the position of The Italian Society of Human Nutrition is that those consuming a vegetarian diet should regularly consume good sources of ALA such as flaxseeds and chia.

  1. Position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: Vegetarian Diets

    Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, JAND, 2015

  2. Position paper on vegetarian diets from the working group of the Italian Society of Human Nutrition

    Agnoli C, Baroni L, Bertini I, CIappellano S et al., Nutrition, Metabolism & Cardiovascular Diseases, 2017

Important when not eating enough fiber

Dietary fiber is vital for a healthy digestive system. Fiber supports the digestive system by increasing fecal bulk, increasing stool frequency and reducing intestinal transit time. Additionally, as dietary fiber is a key substrate for the gut microbiota. Alteration of dietary fiber intake can have an immediate and direct impact on the gut microbial population (1).

  1. Position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: Health Implications of Dietary Fiber

    Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, JAND, 2015

Supports digestive health

Health Canada Natural Health Product Monograph for flaxseed permits the following claim relating to digestion. The claims are to be used for products providing a minimum of 10g/day in adults (1):

• (Used in Herbal Medicine to) promote(s) bowel movement by increasing bulk volume and water content

• (Used in Herbal Medicine as a) bulk-forming laxative

• (Used in Herbal Medicine to) provide(s) gentle belief of constipation and/or irregularity

• (Used in Herbal Medicine as a) bulk-forming laxative to promote bowel movements and to provide gentle relief of constipation and/or irregularity

  1. Natural Health Product Monograph: Flaxseed-Linum Usitatissimum.

    Health Canada, Health Canada, 2018