Background: Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is a public health problem lacking an approved pharmacological treatment. Omega-3 fatty acids have shown to reverse NAFLD. Chia is a seed rich in α-linolenic acid (ALA), antioxidants, and fiber; therefore, it could be useful to treat NAFLD.
Methods: In a single arm experimental design study, the effect of 25 g/day of milled chia was assessed in 25 patients with NAFLD. After two weeks of dietary stabilization (basal condition) and eight weeks of a chia-supplemented isocaloric diet, liver:spleen attenuation index and visceral abdominal fat (VAF) were measured by computed tomography. Lipids, lipoproteins, free fatty acids (FFA), and ALA plasma concentrations were also determined.
Results: Dietary chia supplementation induced an increase in plasma ALA concentration (75%) and dietary fiber (55%) consumption. After chia supplementation, VAF (9%), body weight (1.4%), total cholesterol (2.5%), non-high density lipoprotein cholesterol (3.2%), and circulating FFA (8%) decreased. Furthermore, NAFLD regressed in 52% of the treated patients (P < 0.05 for all).
Conclusions: The results of the present study show that 25 g/day of milled chia ameliorates NAFLD. Chia is an accessible vegetal source of omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants, and fiber, which could have the potential to prevent metabolic abnormalities in NAFLD patients. Considering that there is no pharmacological treatment approved for NAFLD, the findings of the present study suggest that a chia-supplemented diet could be an innovative alternative to control this disease. RETROSPECTIVELY REGISTERED: https://clinicaltrials.gov/show/NCT03942822.
Keywords: Cardiometabolic risk; Chia; Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease; Visceral abdominal fat.