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A recent BBC article extolled the virtues of Chia seeds. My skeptical alarm bells were ringing throughout, as nearly every source quoted had a commercial interest in selling chia seeds. In particular, some pretty wild claims were made:

Literally, you could live on this stuff because it's pretty much everything you need

 

[...] chia reduces inflammation, improves heart health, and stabilises blood sugar levels. A few tablespoons are touted as remedying just about anything - without any ill effects

 

"In terms of nutritional content, a tablespoon of chia is like a smoothie made from salmon, spinach and human growth hormone,"

 

[chia is capable of] building muscle, lowering cholesterol, and reducing your risk of heart disease

To be precise:

  • Is Chia capable of replacing a diet entirely (is it possible to live healthily on nothing but chia seeds)?

  • Does chia have any recognised medicinal properties published in a medical journal?

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@Chad My first question is clearly based on the claim in the last quote. My second question is based on the claims in the first and third quotes. I don't see what your problem is here. –  fredley Mar 23 '12 at 13:30
    
I moved your primary claim to the top of the list to make it more visible. –  Chad Mar 23 '12 at 15:12
    
I havent removed your second question. Though I think the question would be better with out asking for that specifically since there is no claim that it is recognized. –  Chad Mar 23 '12 at 17:57
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1 Answer 1

up vote 7 down vote accepted

I doubt anybody would test humans on a diet of any single product, especially one which is 30% fat by weight, and which is low in vitamins, iron and some other minerals. That does not mean you could not survive for some time on enough of it (and water).

You can find many studies in the last 20 years of aspects of Chia seeds via Google Scholar or from similar sources. A systematic review of Chia (Salvia hispanica) in 2009 said

RESULTS:

The available human and non-human studies show possible effectiveness for allergies, angina, athletic performance enhancement, cancer, coronary heart disease (CHD), heart attack, hormonal/endocrine disorders, hyperlipidemia, hypertension, stroke, and vasodilatation. Some evidence also suggests possible anticoagulant, antioxidant, and antiviral effects of Salvia hispanica.

CONCLUSION:

There is limited evidence supporting the efficacy of Salvia hispanica for any indication; thus far, only two clinical studies have examined the effects of Salvia hispanica on cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk factors (including body weight). One study showed some effects on some CVD risk factors, while the other did not. Neither study showed any effects of Salvia hispanica on weight loss. However, the historical use of Salvia hispanica suggests that it is safe for consumption by nonallergic individuals. Further rigorous examination is warranted pertaining to the use of Salvia hispanica as a dietary supplement, as well as in the treatment or prevention of human disease.

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