There are many tasks in this world that one may label as difficult.
Some say that studying for competitive exams is hard, some people find mathematics hard.
But there is another area where most people find it difficult to achieve their goals. It is weight loss!
There are so many ways to get rid of excessive fat. Some people like to stick to their gym routine, some like early morning walks or runs, some people prefer to take help from dieticians.
Some people have taken up weight loss management as their profession, in order to help other people lose weight.
But what if the inclusion of a simple seed improves your chances, speed and the ability to lose weight?
These are not magical seeds that this article is about (somewhat like those in the book called “Jack and the Beanstalk)! These are “chia seeds”.
Chia seeds are edible seeds, unprocessed, belonging to a plant “Salvia hispanica”, which is its scientific name.
They have a very mild flavor of their own and can be added to the food to give it a crunch and an amazing texture as well as a boost of nutrients and fiber.
They can be blackish brown to white in colour.
They are native to Mexico and Guatemala, belonging to a flower of the mint family.
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7 Benefits Of Chia Seeds For Obesity
Chia seeds are a great source of proteins, fiber, omega-3 fatty acids and a huge source of other nutrients. They can help with weight loss in various ways. Read on!
1. It can help reduce body fat
The effect of the supplementation of dietary chia, in the form of chia flour, was observed in a study.
Men and women consumed a total of 35g of chia flour per day for a total of 12 weeks.
The more obese individuals showed a greater reduction in body weight.
The waist circumference and total cholesterol also came back to normal values and there was a rise in the “good cholesterol” or high-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels.
In a review where the activity and success of various weight loss supplements were taken into account, according to evidence, it was suggested that chia seeds, due to high fiber and omega-3 fatty acid content, aid weight loss.
When 76 obese individuals consumed 50 grams of chia seeds a day for a period of 12 weeks, a change was seen in their body mass and composition.
It was also hypothesized that chia seeds contribute to the controlling of diabetes and high cholesterol levels.
In an animal model, when rabbits were to consume a diet rich in chia seeds, it was observed that post consumption, the levels of polyunsaturated fatty acids in their body rose. The levels of saturated fatty acids decreased.
Where polyunsaturated fatty acids help by adding to the good cholesterol and controlling heart diseases, saturated fatty acids do the opposite- they raise the bad cholesterol and contribute to heart diseases.
Chia seeds also helped obese patients suffering from type 2 diabetes. The patients were asked to follow a calorie-restricted diet and consume 30g of chia seeds per day.
This resulted in the reduction of waist circumference and weight. An increase in the hormone “adiponectin” was also observed, which improves insulin sensitivity in order to help with type 2 diabetes.
What does this mean? Chia seeds improve lipid profile.They modify fat and enriches the body with unsaturated fatty acids thereby reducing the not-so-needed bad cholesterol.
2. They add nutritive value to your diet
We all have memories of our childhood, good and bad. The bad ones include our parents telling us to stay away from junk food.
No matter how much we resist, junk food always seems attractive! But what if junk food was no longer “junk”?!
It can be a healthy snack! Nobody could have ever guessed that chia seeds could be successfully included in food like a hamburger! A bi-product of chia seeds was included in hamburgers.
This was a concentration of chia flour which had been partially defatted.
It was used to replace the commonly added animal fat into the hamburger patty mix.
It was observed that the addition of chia flour increased the α-linolenic acid content in the burger, proving to make it nutritionally more balanced.
The next most globally loved food is pasta! But again, the very fact that it is unhealthy makes it nutritionally unbalanced for consumption.
Chia seeds have been proved to fix that “unhealthy” tag as well!
Since chia seeds have high protein content and mucilage properties (that help it form a gel-like substance and contribute to the thickness of the substance that they are added to), they proved to be a successful thickening agent.
The usual pasta mix, that includes rice flour, usually raises the blood glucose of the person consuming it. But chia seeds controlled that as well.
They are the perfect gluten-free source one could ask for. Gluten is the protein found in some grains, such as oat and rye, that may interfere with the lining of the small intestine while absorption of important nutrients.
What does this mean? Chia can be used as a substitute for animal fat in hamburgers and a thickening agent in pasta, making them nutritionally better and easier for us to consume the guilt-free!
3. They help normalize insulin levels
There was a significant change brought about with the help of dietary chia in the abnormal fat and insulin levels in an animal model.
In an animal model, researchers explored if chia seeds could avoid the onset of dyslipidemia (abnormal cholesterol levels) and insulin resistance and if they could also reverse the already existing disorders (as mentioned).
The onset of dyslipidemia and insulin resistance was under control in case of rats which consumed dietary chia for 3 weeks.
In another animal model of dyslipidemia and insulin resistance treatment with the dietary chia intake was continued for a period of another 2 months, their disturbing levels of lipid and insulin resistance normalized.
Polyunsaturated fatty acids help in the maintenance of muscle mass if there is a restricted supply of energy to the body, especially in cases aiming toward weight loss.
In an animal study, it was observed that diet which was energy restricted, but rich in different forms of polyunsaturated fatty acids, such as alpha-linolenic acid led to insulin control.
The insulin signaling was also enhanced, through which, insulin aims to utilize the glucose present.
A study was conducted to evaluate the changes brought about with the help of the introduction of chia into the diets of patients suffering from the metabolic syndrome and had abnormally high serum triglycerides and glucose intolerance.
The participants were asked to cut down 500kcal from their diets for a period of 2 weeks.
They were then asked to consume a beverage that contained chia seeds (along with soy and oats) along with the reduced energy diet for a period of 2 months.
This led to a decrease in their body weight, serum triglycerides, so did the glucose intolerance.
The insulin levels were normalized. There was also an increase in the levels of adiponectin (a hormone that regulates blood glucose).
In another investigation, subjects already on medication for type 2 diabetes received approximately 37g of chia seeds for a period of 12 weeks without any changes in their ongoing conventional therapies.
These subjects observed a significant lowering in their systolic blood pressure, blood glucose as well as fibrinogen (a protein that contributes to blood clotting and inflammation).
What does this mean? Chia seeds help in normalizing the disturbed levels of lipid and insulin resistance. They also enhanced the insulin sensitivity. This prevents disorders such as dyslipidaemia, insulin resistance d the metabolic syndrome (or diabetes).
4. It helps control appetite
After reading so much about the weight loss that can happen if one supplements their diet with chia seeds, the exact mechanism was always a mystery.
However, one study suggested that the omega-3 fatty acids (which are also present in chia seeds) alter the expressions of some neuropeptide (protein-like molecules that are used by neurons for communication) genes which are related to the hypothalamus of our brain.
The hypothalamus is involved in various functions such as controlling hunger, thirst, fatigue and the release of various hormones.
The genes so affected are those related to the appetite and fat storage or production.
Chia seeds have also found uses in controlling diet. While there are medicines that do that, but who could have thought that even plants could accomplish the same goals?
A study was published in “The European journal of clinical nutrition”, 2016, which reported that subjects received a 50g of glucose along with 25g of chia or 31.5g of flax seeds, in order to compare the effect of the two seeds on appetite.
It was observed that chia seeds convert glucose into a slow-release carbohydrate which induces satiety and also reduced the glucose levels, more than flax seeds could.
Chia seeds also prolong satiety.
In an investigation, healthy subjects were chosen and they received chia seeds baked into white bread to check if chia seeds prolonged satiety, and their effect on postprandial blood glucose levels.
There was a reduction observed in blood glucose as well as after the treatment which lasted for almost 120 minutes after the intake.
This could help type 2 diabetes, in the management of heart diseases and reduction of inflammation as well.
In a study, healthy subjects received chia seeds baked into white bread (the dosage is 7, 15 or 25g). It was observed that blood glucose levels were reduced, depending upon the dosage. Hence chia seeds can be considered as a dietary supplement.
5. It reduces inflammation
Inflammation has been linked to weight gain and diabetes. Even about a hundred years ago, inflammation was considered as a disorder preceding diabetes as well as obesity.
People have been using salicylates (such as aspirin) to treat type 2 diabetes, and aspirin is, an anti-inflammatory drug (so are salicylates).
Whenever there is a case of inflammation, it is because our body releases certain proteins, called cytokines which further trigger different immune responses.
Similarly, low-grade inflammation and diabetes have been linked to obesity.
Inflammation-sensitive proteins, for example, fibrinogen and ceruloplasmin have been linked to future weight gain. Weight loss showed a reduction in these proteins.
Inflammation in the body occurs with the help of many pathways. Such a pathway is the “toll-like receptor pathway”.
A study shows that dietary intake of omega-3 or polyunsaturated fatty acids suppresses this pathway.
Animals received dietary omega-3 fatty acids for a period of 16 weeks. After this period, some metabolic parameters linked to insulin resistance and obesity were measured.
The experiment resulted in lower fat weight, lower amounts of lipids in the blood, better insulin sensitivity and glucose tolerance.
There was also a lower level of inflammatory cytokines, such as interleukin-6 and tumor necrosis factor α.
The toll-like receptor 4 protein, which is involved in the toll-like receptor pathway for inflammation, was also reduced.
When, in cases of obesity, the fat cells expand, inflammation is increased. Since there is additional stress on the cells, more glucose must be delivered to the cells.
As the amount of glucose reaching the cells goes up, there is a production of reactive oxygen species (free radicals) that are needed to utilize the energy, however, lead to the inflammation of the cell.
Hence, a study was carried out on 3 generations of animals to see if Omega-3 fatty acids could cure oxidative stress caused due to dyslipidemia. If oxidative stress could be decreased, inflammation could also be tackled.
Once the animals consumed dietary omega-3 fatty acids, there was marked prevention of loss of antioxidant enzymes, which was being caused due to dyslipidemia. Hence, inflammation also decreased.
What does this mean? Inflammation caused due to the toll like receptor pathway, that leads to weight gain, can be treated by omega-3 fatty acids.A diet high in omega-3 fatty acids also lowers the oxidative stress (that leads to inflammation) by normalizing the levels of antioxidant enzymes which had reached abnormally low values due to dyslipidemia.
6. It provides Omega 3' s that assist in weight loss
Omega-3 fatty acids are fats that you want to restrain yourself from cutting down!
Unlike unsaturated and saturated fats, omega-3s prevent heart diseases and stroke and also improve heart health.
Fatty liver is usually caused due to high consumption of alcohol. However, obesity can lead to steatosis as well, which includes the infiltration of fat inside the cells of the liver.
This can further cause the inflammation of the liver. This situation, in medical terms, is addressed as “Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease”.
As weight loss and lifestyle changes are required to get rid of obesity and fat in order to get some relief from this condition, for many patients, it gets hard to stick to these lifestyle changes.
Omega-3 fatty acids can be used against non-alcoholic fatty liver disease as well.
A study was conducted to see the effect of the consumption of omega-3 fatty acids on weight loss. Different groups of people were to consume omega-3 fatty acids for varied periods of time.
After a period of 8 weeks, the females showed successful results in weight loss, which were time-dependent.
Insulin resistance and diabetes are often linked to the inflammation arising in the adipose tissue. And this, in turn, is linked to obesity.
This process occurs because of the interaction of the saturated fatty acids with the immune system responses.
If the inflammation occurring in the adipose tissue could be targeted, obesity-related disorders could be helped.
Omega-3 fatty acids are capable of reducing the storage of fat and insulin resistance in rodents. This occurs because these fatty acids increase the oxidation that occurs in skeletal muscles, liver and fat cells and tissues.
They also prevent the formation of triglycerides and fats in the body.
Omega-3 fatty acids also curb the appetite, improve the delivery of nutrients to the skeletal muscles, enhance the oxidation of fat, reduce fat storage and also help in the formation of lean tissue (that is, muscles).
What does this mean? Chia seeds help in treating the non-alcoholic fatty acid liver disease. They prevent the build-up and storage of fat in our body and are capable of suppression of the appetite. These functions are possible due to the presence of omega-3 fatty acids.
7. It is a rich source of fiber
The total fiber content of dried chia seeds is around 38 percent. Hence, a 100g of chia seeds would consist of a whopping 34g of fiber.
Fiber has the ability to accommodate a large chunk of space in the stomach that makes a person feel full.
It also makes bowel movements easier. Fiber has the ability to absorb water, so do the chia seeds and hence, when the water is absorbed in the colon, it drastically reduces the inflammation and pressure of the colon.
Since it eases the bowel movements, it in turn also removes toxins from the body at a good rate.
The fat reduction effects of fiber have always been well known. Fiber also reduces cholesterol levels (total and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol).
They also help in lowering the blood pressure, weight loss, reduce inflammation and control the levels of glucose in the blood.
Fiber can also help athletes in the loss and maintenance of their weight. The diet which they focus on is rich in fiber.
Fiber is helpful in increasing the volume of the food which, once consumed, gives one the feeling of a full stomach.
At the same time, it is a low-energy diet. Hence, a diet rich in fiber can be used to reach a weight-loss goal or maintain the weight.
What does this mean? Fiber helps in reduction of bad cholesterol, loss of fat and weight by exhibiting satiety for the ones who consume it along with their meal.
Do Chia Seeds really help in weight loss?
In a study, non-diseased, obese subjects consumed chia seeds before their first and last meal for a period of 12 weeks.
However, there was not a significant difference observed in inflammation, blood pressure, oxidative stress, and lipoproteins.
Hence, chia seed could not change the factors that increase the risk of various diseases.
Postmenopausal overweight women received chia seeds in order to evaluate the help that chia seeds provide to prevent various diseases. They received 25g of chia seeds for a period of 10 weeks.
This resulted in a rise in the α-linolenic acid content in the body by 58%. However, post-treatment, the inflammation, body composition, blood pressure and lipoproteins did not show significant changes.
Chia seeds can be also used to make a gel. All we have to do is to mix the chia seeds with any liquid that is drinkable.
For example, let’s take water.
The soaked chia seeds absorb all the liquid and then there’s the formation of the gel, which may look like jelly.
The proportion, however, should be 1 tablespoon of chia seeds in 1 cup of liquid.
They can soak the liquid up to 10 times their own weight. The gel so formed should be stored in the fridge.
This gel can have many uses. We can mix it into yogurt along with fruits such as strawberries and blueberries- and blend it and have it as a smoothie.
The dosage of chia seeds can be 15g to 20g per day. The omega-3 fatty acid requirement of the body can be fulfilled by this dosage.
Those looking forward to alleviating insulin resistance can increase their intake slightly.
In the end..
Chia seeds help in a wide variety of ways.
They help in appetite control and aid in calorie restriction.
It is not the weight loss miracle that we have been waiting for but it definitely has a good dose of nutrients, fiber, and omega3s that can benefit in our weight loss journey.
They help in keeping insulin resistance and diabetes at bay.
Are they any less than a treasure found at an undiscovered island? I do not think so!