Heart disease or cardiovascular disease refers to the diseases related to the heart.
Some common types of heart diseases include coronary artery disease (damage of blood vessels), high blood pressure (high force of blood against the wall of artery), cardiac arrest (sudden loss of heart function), congestive heart failure (when heart doesn’t pump blood), arrhythmia (improper rate of heart beat), stroke (damage caused to brain due to interrupted blood supply) and congenital heart disease (development of some abnormality in heart that develops before birth).
The risk factors of heart disease are age, family history, obesity, diabetes, high cholesterol levels, poor diet, stress or smoking.
Heart diseases can be prevented by adopting a healthy lifestyle like exercising daily, maintaining good nutrition, avoiding stress and quit smoking.
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What are Chia Seeds?
Chia seeds are obtained from chia plant, Salvia hispanica abundant in Mexico.
The chia seeds are constituted of 25‒40% oil, 15‒25% protein and 18‒30% dietary fiber.
It is also rich in omega‒3 polyunsaturated fatty acids especially α‒linolenic acid. It is rich in phenolic compounds which act as antioxidants like vitamin E (tocopherol).
How Chia Seeds Promote Heart Health
Chia seeds are rich in omega‒3 polyunsaturated fatty acids, phenolic compounds and dietary fiber which are beneficial to maintain a healthy heart.
1. It reduces blood pressure
Chia seeds are known to reduce blood pressure. In a study, the patients consumed 35g/d chia flour for 12 weeks.
This led to the reduction in blood pressure of hypertensive patients.
This is due to the presence of high level of omega‒3 polyunsaturated fatty acids which reduce the blood pressure in patients.
A healthy lifestyle which includes chia seeds in the diet prevents the risk of high blood pressure.
What does this mean? Consumption of chia seeds prevents the risk of high blood pressure thereby preventing heart disease.
2. It reduces the risk of coronary heart disease
Coronary heart disease is a common cardiovascular disorder. In a study, a rat model was fed with chia seeds and the levels of triglycerides and cholesterol were measured.
It was observed that the triglyceride content decreased.
Clinical studies have shown that consuming lipids rich in omega‒3 polyunsaturated fatty acids reduces the risk of coronary heart disease.
In another study, it was shown that diet rich in chia seeds decreases the level of lipid levels and increases high-density lipoprotein cholesterol and omega‒3 fatty acids .
Chia seeds maintain a balanced omega‒3 to omega‒6 fatty acid ratio of 4:1 which is critical for maintaining a healthy heart.
What does this mean? Supplementation of chia seeds in diet can prevent the risk of coronary heart disease which leads to damage of blood vessels.
3. It is cardioprotective
Chia seeds induce fat redistribution and prevent its accumulation in the liver.
α‒linolenic acid present in chia seeds inhibit stearoyl‒CoA‒desaturase 1 (enzyme important to form an unsaturated fatty acid) in the heart, liver and adipose tissue. This is associated with cardioprotection.
Moreover, tocopherols have received attention in research regarding coronary heart disease prevention. It prevents oxidation of low-density lipoproteins .
What does this mean? Chia seeds prevent lipid accumulation in heart and hence it is protective against metabolic and heart diseases.
4. It helps to maintain blood sugar levels
In a study on an animal model, glucose tolerance test was conducted. Blood glucose levels were then checked and it was found that animals fed with chia seeds have normal glucose levels in their blood.
Omega‒3 polyunsaturated fatty acids maintain glucose homeostasis which prevents the accumulation of lipids and adiposity.
This further prevents the development of diabetes as the sugar levels in the blood are maintained. It indirectly lowers the risk of heart disease.
What does this mean? Glucose‒related diseases are prevented when diet rich in chia seeds is consumed and hence the risk of heart disease is lowered indirectly.
5. It has antioxidant potential
Chia seeds and oil contain polyphenols such as kaempferol, chlorogenic acid, and myricetin have a high antioxidant capacity.
The consumption of Chilean chia seed and oil can be an alternative to improve health suggesting it is a functional food.
Free radicals have a key role in the development of thickenings on arterial wall5. Hence, antioxidants play an important role in curbing atherosclerosis (build up of fats and cholesterol in the artery wall).
These antioxidants inhibit the formation of oxidants, obstruct their action and also repair any oxidant-related injury.
What does this mean? Antioxidants prevent oxidation of lipids and inhibit the formation of free radicals that can disrupt walls of artery. Hence, they lower the risk of heart disease.
6. It prevents obesity
Some preliminary studies have suggested that consumption of chia seeds suppresses appetite .
Obese patients were given chia seeds in their diet and it was found that in six months they lost weight.
There was a great reduction in the waist circumference.
Supplementation of chia seeds can be promising in weight loss which would further prevent cardiovascular disease risk.
It was also observed that chia seeds maintain a good glycemic (sugar) control.
In another study, the effectiveness of chia seeds in lowering disease risk factors in obese patients was studied.
An increase in the concentration of α‒linolenic acid was observed in the blood plasma of obese patients which controls cardiovascular disorders.
What does this mean? Obesity is one of the major risk factors for heart disease. Chia seeds suppress appetite to promote weight loss thereby cutting off the risk of cardiovascular disease.
7. It prevents diabetes
Consumption of chia seeds improves management of diabetes type 28. Intake of chia seeds reduces blood glucose.
Chia seeds have the ability to convert glucose into a slow releasing carbohydrate form. Hence, incorporation of chia seeds in diet can be beneficial to normalize blood glucose.
Patients with diabetes are at a high risk of heart disease. Thus, patients with diabetes when supplementing their diet with chia seeds can overcome the tendency of cardiovascular disorder.
It prevents the development of insulin resistance in patients which means the insulin hormone whose function is disrupted in diabetes can function moderately.
What does this mean? Chia seeds reduce the complications of type 2 diabetes and hence, help in avoiding heart diseases.
8. It enhances the nutritional value of food
The total content of minerals and soluble dietary fiber is enhanced on the consumption of chia seeds.
It increases the level of a very crucial omega‒3 polyunsaturated fatty acids, α‒linolenic acid.
The nutritive value of bread was increased by chia seed formulation. This bread was rich in proteins, soluble fiber, phenolic compounds, and α‒linolenic acid.
Thus, incorporation of chia seeds makes the diet nutritionally balanced.
What does this mean? For a healthy heart, a healthy diet is very much required. Chia seeds provide many essential nutrients that help in maintaining a healthy heart.
9. It ameliorates dyslipidemia and hypercholesterolemia
A study revealed that dietary chia seeds prevent the onset of dyslipidemia(a rise in cholesterol and triglycerides).
It maintains homeostasis of lipids.
The long chain polyunsaturated fatty acids like α‒linolenic acid lower the level of lipids and triglycerides by suppressing lipid synthesis in the liver as well as inhibiting its synthesis.
α‒linolenic acid, the main omega‒3 fatty acid present in chia seeds, when converted to eicosapentaenoic acid in the liver, exerts its hypolipidemia and hypocholesterolemia (lowering the level of cholesterol) effect.
The soluble fiber content in chia seeds also helps in reducing the levels of cholesterol in the blood.
What does this mean? Chia seeds have the highest natural content of α‒linolenic acid. It is this omega‒3 fatty acid that lowers the level of plasma lipids as well as cholesterol. Hence, it reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease as dyslipidemia and hypercholesterolemia are important risk factors.
1-2 teaspoons of chia seeds are beneficial for health on daily consumption.
There are no proven side‒effects of the consumption of chia seeds. It has been considered to be as food by the Food and Drug Association (FDA).
However, pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers must consult the doctor for safety guideline.
Avoid consuming dry chia seeds as they can swell in the throat and cause choking.
Chia seeds have antioxidant property and are cardioprotective.
It makes the diet nutritionally balanced as it contains vitamins, minerals, essential omega‒3 fatty acids, polyphenolic compounds such as tocopherol, kaempferol, and soluble dietary fiber.
Omega‒3s lower blood pressure in hypertensive patients. There are reports showing that chia seeds prevent coronary heart disease which is a common cardiovascular disorder.
The antioxidants present in chia seeds have a key role in curbing heart diseases.
It prevents the metabolic factors which increase the risk of heart diseases like diabetes and obesity.
Incorporation of chia seeds in the diet induces several health benefits along with nutritional benefits. It is a functional food or a nutraceutical.