Harvard Heart Letter

Heart Beat: A Chia Pet for diabetes?

Heart Beat

A Chia Pet for diabetes?

As each December rolls around, ads for the Chia Pet start turning up on late-night television. When watered, these silly ceramic figures sprout a green "fur" from seeds on their surface. A Canadian study suggests that a variant of these seeds might help people with diabetes control their blood sugar and protect their hearts.

Chia seeds come from a plant formally known as Salvia hispanica, which is a member of the mint family. It gets its common name from the Aztec word chian, meaning oily, because the herb's small, black seeds are rich in oils. Legend has it that Aztec runners relied on chia seeds for fuel as they carried messages one hundred or more miles in a day. The seeds contain more healthy omega-3 fats and fiber than flax or other grain seeds, and they're a great source of protein and antioxidants.

The Canadian researchers showed that a daily portion of one-third of a cup (about 36 grams) of Salba, a white-seeded variant of chia, helped diabetic volunteers control their blood sugar along with their blood pressure and new markers of cardiac risk, such as C-reactive protein and fibrinogen. The results were published in the November 2007 Diabetes Care.

To continue reading this article, you must login.
  • Research health conditions
  • Check your symptoms
  • Prepare for a doctor's visit or test
  • Find the best treatments and procedures for you
  • Explore options for better nutrition and exercise
Learn more about the many benefits and features of joining Harvard Health Online »