Chia seeds (Salvia hispanica) provide an unusually high content of α-linolenic acid with several potential health benefits, but few studies have examined the long-term intake of n-3 fatty acid-rich plant foods such as chia. In this work, we investigated some of the effects of a diet containing 10% chia seeds versus a conventional isocaloric diet for 10 and 13 months on body measurements, musculoskeletal system, the liver, and the intestines of 20 male Sprague-Dawley rats assigned into two groups. The n-6/n-3 ratios for the control and chia diets were 7.46 and 1.07, respectively. For the first 10 months of the diet, the body parameters and weights were similar, but at 13 months, the bone mineral content (BMC) of the chia-fed rats was significantly higher than that of the controls whether in total or proximal areas of the left tibia. Also, significant positive correlations were found between the age of the chia group and the bone mineral density, BMC, weight of the musculoskeletal system, final body weight, and skin weight. Liver and intestinal examinations showed improved morphology associated with lower lipid deposit in hepatocytes and increased intestinal muscle layers and crypt size in the chia group. This study provides new data suggesting the potential benefits associated with the long-term intake of chia seeds.
Keywords: Sprague-Dawley; bone densitometry analysis; chia seed; intestine; liver; long-term dietary intake; musculoskeletal system.