Chia seeds contain the essential fatty acid, α-linolenic acid (ALA). This study has assessed whether chia seeds attenuated the metabolic, cardiovascular and hepatic signs of a high-carbohydrate, high-fat (H) diet [carbohydrates, 52% (wt/wt); fat, 24% (wt/wt) with 25% (wt/vol) fructose in drinking water] in rats. Diets of the treatment groups were supplemented with 5% chia seeds after 8 weeks on H diet for a further 8 weeks. Compared with the H rats, chia seed-supplemented rats had improved insulin sensitivity and glucose tolerance, reduced visceral adiposity, decreased hepatic steatosis and reduced cardiac and hepatic inflammation and fibrosis without changes in plasma lipids or blood pressure. Chia seeds induced lipid redistribution with lipid trafficking away from the visceral fat and liver with an increased accumulation in the heart. The stearoyl-CoA desaturase-1 products were depleted in the heart, liver and the adipose tissue of chia seed-supplemented rats together with an increase in the substrate concentrations. The C18:1trans-7 was preferentially stored in the adipose tissue; the relatively inert C18:1n-9 was stored in sensitive organs such as liver and heart and C18:2n-6, the parent fatty acid of the n-6 pathway, was preferentially metabolized. Thus, chia seeds as a source of ALA induce lipid redistribution associated with cardioprotection and hepatoprotection.
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