Chia (Salvia hispanica L.) is a flowering plant often marketed as a weight loss aid. Some proponents claim that chia can also protect against heart disease, stimulate the immune system, and improve nerve function.
Sold in whole-seed, oil, and capsule form, chia contains omega-3 fatty acids, fiber, and antioxidants. To date, however, there is little scientific evidence showing that chia can promote weight loss or offer any other health benefits.
The Science Behind Chia and Weight Loss
For a 2009 report from Reviews on Recent Clinical Trials, scientists gathered the available research on the health effects of chia. Although some studies showed "possible effectiveness" for several conditions (including high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and angina), the report's authors caution that there is limited evidence supporting the use of chia for any indication (including weight loss).
In a study published in Nutrition Research the same year, researchers assigned 90 overweight or obese adults to 12 weeks of treatment with chia seed or a placebo. Looking at study results, the researchers found no differences in body mass, inflammation, or blood pressure between the two treatment groups.
In 2007, another study published in Diabetes Care and involving 20 people with type 2 diabetes found that 12 weeks of treatment with chia helped reduce systolic blood pressure and inflammation but failed to produce changes in body weight.
Is Chia Safe as a Weight Loss Aid?
Although chia appears to be safe for nonallergic individuals, there's some evidence that it might increase the effects of drugs taken for diabetes and high blood pressure. Consumption of chia may also lower your blood sugar levels.
Should You Use Chia for Weight Loss?
Due to the lack of supporting research, chia cannot be recommended as a weight loss aid. Adding whole chia seeds or chia oil to your diet may offer some health benefits, but it's important to consult your physician before taking chia capsules (or any other dietary supplement) in the effort to promote weight loss.
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 Jun;29(6):414-8.
Ulbricht C, Chao W, Nummy K, Rusie E, Tanguay-Colucci S, Iannuzzi CM, Plammoottil JB, Varghese M, Weissner W. "Chia (Salvia hispanica): a systematic review by the natural standard research collaboration." Rev Recent Clin Trials. 2009 Sep;4(3):168-74.
Vuksan V, Whitham D, Sievenpiper JL, Jenkins AL, Rogovik AL, Bazinet RP, Vidgen E, Hanna A. "Supplementation of conventional therapy with the novel grain Salba improves major and emerging cardiovascular risk factors in type 2 diabetes: results of a randomized controlled trial." Diabetes Care. 2007 Nov;30(11):2804-10.