Which Are Better: Chia Seeds or Flax Seeds?

Which Are Better: Chia Seeds or Flax Seeds?
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What effect do chia seeds have on weight loss, blood sugar, cholesterol, blood pressure, and inflammation?

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Below is an approximation of this video’s audio content. To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video.

We’ve been eating chia seeds for more than 5,000 years—historically, one of the main crops grown in the Western hemisphere. They are exceptionally high in fiber and omega-3 fatty acids, though, like flax seeds, it’s better to grind them up. Even eating two tablespoons of whole chia seeds every day for ten weeks led to no change in omega-3 levels. But 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. But, there appeared to be “no influence on inflammation or disease risk factors.” No change in body fat, blood sugar, cholesterol, blood pressure, C-reactive protein, or any of the other markers of inflammation.

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

Whenever researchers appear to be exaggerating their results, it’s always a red flag to check their funding source. But, they didn’t disclose any conflicts of interest. Five years later, though, 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 didn’t they disclose this? Because the journal’s conflict-of-interest policy evidently didn’t “specifically require the disclosure of such information.”

Anyways, 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. The original study did show a significant drop in blood pressure, which was replicated by other researchers—though not as potent an effect as ground flaxseed.

The primary reason I prefer flax seeds over chia seeds, though, is their lignan content, averaging about 15 times more than other seeds, including sesame and chia seeds—thought to explain the anticancer effects of flax seeds, for both prevention and survival.

Chia seeds are certainly better than eggs and oil, though. 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.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Image credit: Kristina DeMuth. Image has been modified.

Video credit: Julien Herman

Below is an approximation of this video’s audio content. To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video.

We’ve been eating chia seeds for more than 5,000 years—historically, one of the main crops grown in the Western hemisphere. They are exceptionally high in fiber and omega-3 fatty acids, though, like flax seeds, it’s better to grind them up. Even eating two tablespoons of whole chia seeds every day for ten weeks led to no change in omega-3 levels. But 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. But, there appeared to be “no influence on inflammation or disease risk factors.” No change in body fat, blood sugar, cholesterol, blood pressure, C-reactive protein, or any of the other markers of inflammation.

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

Whenever researchers appear to be exaggerating their results, it’s always a red flag to check their funding source. But, they didn’t disclose any conflicts of interest. Five years later, though, 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 didn’t they disclose this? Because the journal’s conflict-of-interest policy evidently didn’t “specifically require the disclosure of such information.”

Anyways, 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. The original study did show a significant drop in blood pressure, which was replicated by other researchers—though not as potent an effect as ground flaxseed.

The primary reason I prefer flax seeds over chia seeds, though, is their lignan content, averaging about 15 times more than other seeds, including sesame and chia seeds—thought to explain the anticancer effects of flax seeds, for both prevention and survival.

Chia seeds are certainly better than eggs and oil, though. 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.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Image credit: Kristina DeMuth. Image has been modified.

Video credit: Julien Herman

Doctor's Note

Who grinds chia seeds? That was a shocker!

What was that about flax seeds and cancer? See:

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