Chia Seeds Could Be Key To Future Health, Study Finds

The little seeds have big potential


3 Minutes Read

Pots of vegan chia seed pudding Chia seeds have been shown to have possible key uses in health and medicine - Media Credit: Adobe Stock

A new study of chia seeds has sparked excitement about potential applications for health and medicine.

In the study, researchers at Oregon State University mapped the entire genome of chia seeds. In doing so, they found that chia has properties that could potentially be used to treat conditions like high blood pressure and cancer.

They also looked at ways to make the crop more sustainable and improve yields. This could have future uses to feed a growing population.

The research was published in the journal Frontiers in Plant Science.

The small but mighty chia seed

Chia, the common name for Salvia hispanica, is known for being packed with proteins, healthy fats, and antioxidants. It is a member of the mint family and is native to central and southern Mexico and Guatemala. 

Plants have long been used for their medicinal benefits. According to the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), 40 percent of pharmaceutical drugs in US pharmacies are derived from plants. This number includes all of the top 20 best-selling medications.

Artistic aerial shot of chia seeds, which could help improve human health and medicine
Adobe Stock Little chia seeds could have a big impact on health and medicine

By taking a closer look at chia seeds, the researchers found genetic properties that may one day be useful for treating high blood pressure and cancer.

Moreover, the study noted other positive features of chia seeds. These include antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Antioxidants are found in many plant-based foods and have been linked with a variety of health benefits, including reduced risks of cancer and type 2 diabetes.

Minor crops with major potential

The researchers point out that chia seeds were once overlooked in agriculture. In the search for better global food and nutrition, most efforts have focused on big crops like rice, wheat, and maize.

In recent years, however, interest has grown in lesser-known crops with health benefits. So-called “minor crops” are now considered by some to be crucial in the climate crisis. These include millets, chia, cassava, yam, and pulses.

Part of the reason for this is that minor crops are usually resilient in tough conditions. To boost their production and sustainability yet further, the researchers mapped the genetics of chia seeds.

According to the researchers, this could help develop new varieties and improve crops. Improved chia seed crops might have features such as better yield and nutrition quality, shorter flowering and seed development time, and improved frost and cold tolerance in the northern latitudes.

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