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Chia Seeds vs. Flaxseeds

 

What effect do chia seeds have on weight loss, blood sugar, cholesterol, blood pressure, and inflammation?

We’ve been eating chia seeds for more than 5,000 years. Historically, they are one of the main crops grown in the Western hemisphere. They are exceptionally high in fiber and omega-3 fatty acids, though, like flaxseeds, it’s better to grind them up. As you can see at 0:26 in my video Which Are Better: Chia Seeds or Flaxseeds?, eating two tablespoons of whole chia seeds every day for ten weeks led to no change in omega-3 levels, but consuming the same amount of ground chia seeds did lead to a significant increase in blood levels of both short-chain and long-chain omega 3s. “Ingestion of…milled chia seed compared to whole chia seed or placebo… appeared to have no influence on inflammation or disease risk factors,” though. As well, there was no change in body fat, blood sugar, cholesterol, blood pressure, C-reactive protein, or any of the other markers of inflammation, as you can see at 0:47 in my video.

An earlier study purported to show a significant reduction in C-reactive protein levels (an indicator of systemic inflammation), compared to control. However, if you look closely at the data, you see that was only because there was a significant worsening in the placebo group who had been given a couple of tablespoons of wheat bran a day instead of chia. So it’s not that the chia group got significantly better; the control group just got significantly worse, as you can see at 1:22 in my video.

Whenever researchers appear to be exaggerating their results, that’s a red flag to check their funding source. In this case, they didn’t disclose any conflicts of interest. Five years later, however, the truth came out. The study was indeed funded by a chia company. Furthermore, the lead investigator had filed a patent to use chia seeds to treat diseases. Why wasn’t any of this disclosed when the study was originally published? Because the journal’s “conflict-of-interest policy did not specifically require the disclosure of such information.”

Regardless, the “patent has since been abandoned,” likely because subsequent studies found no significant benefits for weight loss, blood sugar, cholesterol, blood pressure, or inflammation after eating a quarter cup of chia seeds a day for three months, as you can see at 2:16 in my video. The original study, however, did show a significant drop in blood pressure, which was replicated by other researchers.

More potent effects have been found with ground flaxseeds, though. The primary reason I prefer flaxseeds over chia seeds is their lignan content, which averages about 15 times more than other seeds, including sesame and chia. This is thought to explain the anti-cancer effects of flaxseeds for both prevention and survival.

Still, chia seeds are certainly better than eggs and oil. By mixing one part chia seeds and nine parts water and letting it sit, you can create a chia gel that can be used as an egg or oil replacer in baked goods.

Who grinds chia seeds? Were you as surprised by that as I was?

For an update about the potential of chia seeds for weight loss, check out Do Chia Seeds Help with Belly Fat?


You can learn more about flax seeds and cancer from my videos, including:

To find out more about what flax seeds can do, check out:

In health,

Michael Greger, M.D.

PS: If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my free videos here and watch my live presentations:

Discuss

Michael Greger M.D., FACLM

Michael Greger, M.D. FACLM, is a physician, New York Times bestselling author, and internationally recognized professional speaker on a number of important public health issues. Dr. Greger has lectured at the Conference on World Affairs, the National Institutes of Health, and the International Bird Flu Summit, testified before Congress, appeared on The Dr. Oz Show and The Colbert Report, and was invited as an expert witness in defense of Oprah Winfrey at the infamous "meat defamation" trial.


26 responses to “Chia Seeds vs. Flaxseeds

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  1. I grind chia seeds when making chia pudding, which is the only thing I use them for. Throwing soymilk, dates, cocoa powder, vanilla and chia seeds in a blender makes some mighty tasty pudding.

  2. I sometimes add chia seeds to my sourdough bread dough, along with sunflower, sesame, and flax seeds; the dough undergoes long ferments and proofs, so I’m assuming that the chia seeds take up some of the water in the dough — similar to pre-soaking them. I wonder if that makes them more digestible?

    I also always add ground flaxseed to the dough.

  3. Is soaking whole chia seeds overnight in a liquid beneficial or do they still have to be ground up? I am not a fan of their taste when they are ground.

  4. I am so frustrated because I use both ground chia seeds and ground flaxseed daily but my cholesterol is still high. I have been WFPB and SOS free for 2 years and 3 months and although it helped me lose weight my cholesterol is still in the 300’s. My physician keeps trying to put me on a statin as she says that my cholesterol is probably more due to hereditary influences than diet at this point. I’m at the end of my rope and don’t know what else I should try or if I should give in and take the statin.

      1. It is good for me re-reading it.

        Beans and greens are what I like to eat the most so that part isn’t difficult,

        I do the 4 Brazil nuts, but I almost never do the flaxseeds and chia. I did buy some flax and chia mixed together individual packets and the occasions that I eat oatmeal, I eat them.

        But I still haven’t had my thyroid checked.

        Blame it on procrastination followed by COVID-19.

    1. Rebecca,
      Welcome to the club! There are many of us who in spite of sticking to wfpb eating still can’t get our LDL numbers down.
      My HDL is on the higher side, my triglycerides on the lower side, and LDL still high in spite of austere wfpb for 10 years+, and taking low dose statins.

      There are several reasons I have found. First is genetics. Myself and my family all take statins and still struggle with high cholesterol. Second, low estrogen. Women after menopause can have the unpleasant experience of seeing their cholesterol levels rise. Thirdly, I have discovered that I can make my cholesterol plummet for a month or so if I lose a lot of weight. I am slim to start with, but losing a substantial amount to a bmi lower than 18 can drop ldl temporarily.

      Not going to worry about it. Dr Esselstyn advises people with stubbornly high cholesterol to eat perfectly, exercise, take statins, do whatever to lower as much as you can.

    2. You might want to consider taking amla for a month or so but it’s important to recognise that statins do save lives and prevent heart attacks and stroke. If you need ’em, you need ’em.

      ‘The statin therapy in high-risk asymptomatic individuals for primary prevention strategy has been found to be safe, beneficial, and cost-effective.[5] In the secondary prevention trials with simvastatin,[25] it has been reported that in patients with CAD having TC 250 mg/ml, therapy for 5.4 years with simvastatin produced reduction of TC by 25%, LDL levels by 35%, and risk for CAD by 42%. Both primary and secondary prevention trials demonstrate that each 1 mg/ml decrease in plasma cholesterol is associated with a 2% decrease in CAD.[26]

      In our study, simvastatin treatment for 42 days produced significant reduction in the TC, LDL, and triglyceride (TG) levels as compared to that reported by Scandinavians Simvastatin Survival Study[25] and the study by Down et al.[11] However, the discrepancy in the lipid lowering capacity of statin in our study and that reported in the literature could be attributed to the shorter duration of treatment employed by us.

      In Ayurveda, Amla is reported to be beneficial in the treatment of respiratory, cardiovascular, and rheumatic diseases as well as in diabetes. Various experimental studies also have suggested antioxidant[27] and hypolipidemic effects[19] of Amla. In a clinical study, lipid lowering action of Amla has been reported in patients aged 35-55 years when raw Amla was administered for 28 days.[20] In our study, Amla showed a reduction of TC, LDL and TG and an increase in HDL. The drug was administered as 500 mg capsule per day for 42 days. It is also interesting to note that both Amla and simvastatin produced similar changes in the lipid profile; however, simvastatin treatment produced greater reduction in the TG level as compared to that produced by Amla.’
      https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3326920/

      https://nutritionfacts.org/video/amla-vs-drugs-for-cholesterol-inflammation-and-blood-thinning/

    3. Eat 1/4 cup legumes “kidney beans , black beans, pinto beans , lentils etc” every time you eat any cholesterol foods like meat, fish, eggs , shrimp etc. the beans gather up the cholesterol in your blood stream out into the toilet where it belongs. My nutritionist / bio chemist taught me to do this. My triglycerides are 53 and total cholesterol 185. I also take 1 tsp of psyllium husk powder with every meal.

  5. I roast my chia and sesame seeds then I grind flax seeds, chia seeds and sesame seeds together then add some whole seeds to the mix cuz I like it that way. I keep the mix in the fridge because I worry the oil from the flax seeds will go rancid. I put this mix in most of my food so I’m getting a few tablespoons of seeds a day. I also use nutritional yeast on some of my foods like salads. Haven’t been to the Dr since 2018(many reasons why) but am going to make an appt soon as I can find a Dr who takes my insurance. Guess I’ll find out then if my cholesterol, blood sugar and blood pressure are still high. I’ve been under tremdous stress since 2017 from being without a place to live for a year, my very stressful job, covid and my son being murdered. Since being home all the time now(I live where I work as a caregiver) it has added to my stress. Curious to see how my body is reacting to it all. Wish I could get a handle on my depression!

  6. I’ve always ground chia seeds, white and black kind, along with hemp and flax. And I would never roast any of them.

  7. Great informative article. I had no idea that chia seeds can be used as a replacement for egg. I always goggle to find egg replacements but only get to know that curd can be used. Now I will definitely try chia gel for my cake baking next time

    1. Hi Cliff,
      phytoestrogens attach to receptor B versus receptor A for regular estrogen, thus are protective against cancers. It is also a big misunderstanding about soy… it is protective not inductive of cancer.

  8. Hiya Im the 1 from the facebook q and a with the spinal issues which you didnt have the answer for, a bit of history of mine, im 35 and was diagnosed via xray as having scheuermanns disease, plant based has helped a bit but still in alot of pain and await8g refferals

  9. I was not able to fin any information specifically comparing toasted v raw GROUND flax seed, but htere have been studies comparing flax seed that is raw v toasted which seems to be a good question since at least one source encourages roasting to minimize potential risk of harmful chemicals in raw seeds:

    https://newsnetwork.mayoclinic.org/discussion/mayo-clinic-q-and-a-flaxseed-a-nutritional-powerhouse/
    “Unripe and raw flaxseed can have toxins that may be harmful in high doses. Consider toasting, cooking or baking the flaxseed to destroy those toxins.” I’m assuming Mayo Clinic is referring to the cyanide in flax, but Dr. Geger looked at this issue carefully: https://nutritionfacts.org/video/should-we-be-concerned-about-the-cyanide-from-flaxseed/ and it appears if you keep to the recommended limit (no more than 1 1/2 TBS) raw flax seed is healthy and does not require roasting –just grinding. So enjoy your 1 TBS Daily Dozen dose roasted or raw.

  10. This may sound a little crazy, but I listened to a “fitness expert” explain that flaxseed is one of “the worst things for men to eat”. He went to explain that lignans were involved in suppressing testosterone production in men.

    I was a little shocked to hear this and the first thing that came to mind was to mention it here and see if others or Dr Gregor had come across anything like this in research that would support such a statement.

    Look forward to feedback!

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