Omega-3 Chia Seed Extract

Valensa’s TresalbioTM Omega-3 Chia Seed Extract - A New Plant Based Omega-3 Rich Oil

There are times when the solution to a serious problem often stares us right in the face.

The problem – The Western world needs a new, viable, stable, crop-based, alternative source of heart healthy dietary ALA (Omega-3).

The solution – Ch Ch Ch Chia... Yes, the seed associated with the well known "Chia Pet" holds the keys as a functional superfood with 20% Omega-3 in each seed. Chia is the vegetable source with the most omega-3 content and has a myriad of other health benefits.

Chia seed, known scientifically as Salvia hispanica L. was well chosen for its modern plant-friend mission because the seed can absorb up to 15 times its weight in water, forms a sticky gel like coat on hydration, and has an excellent germination rate, even from seeds stored for several years. However, the story of Salvia hispanica goes back over 3,000 years to the Aztecs of Central America.

Chia was one of the four main foods of the Aztecs, along with corn, amaranth and beans. (In fact, "chia" is the Mayan word for "strength"). After the arrival of the Spaniards, the plant became almost extinct because of cultural and religious reasons. However, consumption from rudimentary production or wild plants never stopped. As part of an effort led by pioneers such as Wayne Coates and Ricardo Ayersa at the University of Arizona, it was re-domesticated in the 1990’s in South America, making chia more readily available for food, seed oil, animal feed and cosmetic applications.

Chia is an oilseed. It grows in the tropical and sub-tropical areas of the American continent, from the valleys of Central Mexico to the Northwestern valleys of Salta, in Argentina. It has similar agricultural requirements of other oilseeds, like flax. Normally, chia seed contains from 30% to 35% seed oil, of which approximately two-thirds is Omega-3. The following charts show that it is the highest natural known source of Omega-3 oil:

Omega–3 content as the percentage of ALA in the seed oil.
Common name Alternate name Linnaean name % n3
Chia chia sage Salvia hispanica 64
Kiwifruit Chinese gooseberry Actinidia chinensis 62
Perilla shiso Perilla frutescens 58
Flax linseed Linum usitatissimum 55
Lingonberry Cowberry Vaccinium vitis-idaea 49
Camelina Gold-of-pleasure Camelina sativa 36
Purslane Portulaca Portulaca oleracea 35
Black Raspberry   Rubus occidentalis 33

There has been a great deal of confusion in the marketplace about what constitutes an "omega-3", a term now used widely, yet loosely, to describe many important poly-unsaturated fatty acids. Omega-3, also known as ALA, is an Essential Fatty Acid, as is Omega-6, also known as LA. These are called essential as the human body needs them for normal functionality, yet the body does not produce them. Omega-6 is readily available in the Western diet as it’s found in corn and soybean oils used prevalently in cooking, baking and frying. Omega-3 however is rarely found naturally in the Western diet, only derived from certain fish, and therefore should be supplemented.

ALA and LA’s importance cannot be under-estimated in man as the charts below will indicate. In addition, many consumers have heard about the heart healthy benefits of fish oil based EPA and DHA.  Fish oil contains these important downstream metabolites of ALA along with a great deal of saturated fat and, without a doubt, clinical trials have shown the value of certain fish oils in mitigating the risk of cardiovascular disease ("CVD"); however, until recently the biological benefits of ALA and in particular a well balanced diet of ALA and LA were not adequately studied under clinical conditions and in the laboratory to confirm ALA’s biological significance.

Confirmation of the efficient metabolic conversion of ALA to heart healthy EPA and brain healthy DHA in short studies in man and even more impressively in longer term studies have recently emerged.

More about ALA’s biological significance:
Take the uncanny case of the poor level of the essential omega-3 fatty acid ALA in the Western diet. This diet is characterized as rich in excessive quantities of the poly-unsaturated essential omega-6 fatty acid LA, its high level of saturated fat and its increasing levels of trans-fatty acid content.

The following chart shows the historical consumption and significance of such dietary changes in Western man and helps us understand the heart healthy nature of dietary omega-3 fatty acids and the need to supplement our omega-6 rich diet with plant based ALA sources.

Total Fat and Fat Composition Changes in Man Over Time

Much can be concluded from the chart above but in short it shows that modern western man has dramatically increased intake levels of saturated fat, Omega-6 LA and trans fat at the expense of omega-3 consumption. But you might wonder if this trend is worthy of our attention.

The following chart leaves no doubt in the scientific community about the relevance of these dietary changes over time.

The LA to ALA Ratio and Its Correlation to Cardio Vascular Disease Mortality in Man
  USA / EU Japan Greenland Inuit
Ratio LA/ALA 30 / 1 12 / 1 1 / 1
CVD Mortality / 1000 45 12 5

As the charts indicate, Western diets rich in the omega-6 LA are highly correlated with severe cardiovascular mortality when compared to the more balanced omega-3 diets found elsewhere in the world.

In addition, ALA is an extremely important down regulator of the LA metabolic cascade that leads to the poly-unsaturated fatty acid arachidonic acid ("AA"), the biological precursor responsible for the in vivo production of the highly inflammatory prostaglandins, the potent platelet aggregating thromboxanes that lead to strokes and MI’s and the eicosanoids responsible for immune response.  When AA is available in excess quantities in cellular membranes your body is set up for a serious over-reaction to stress stimuli. This is why a healthy diet is characterized with a balance of ALA and LA.  The data presented below offers the reader important insight into the value of a balanced intake of plant derived ALA (ALA is not available in fish oil!).  The facts below will now alert you of the significance of ALA in your diet, exactly how your body converts ALA to EPA and DHA and why you need to avoid excessive omega-6 (LA) intake.

ALA/LA Cascade & Associated Cyclic Oxidation Products

Eicosanoid Cascades

In simpler terms:
Chia is Omega-3 SuperFood

The above data seems foreboding but there IS a new, viable, stable, crop-based, alternative source of heart healthy dietary ALA (Omega-3) to meet the Western world needs. Chia!

Chia has approximately 20% Ω-3 in the seed and when extracted provides a 3.3:1 ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 PUFA’s, including 67% by weight as ALA. The daily requirement of this fatty acid is between 1.1g/day and 1.6g/day, according to the FDA.

The following table shows that chia is also rich in protein, antioxidants, fiber, vitamins B1 and B2 and minerals.

Chia’s Benefits and Why They’re Important:

  • Omega Fatty Acids: Chia seeds contain about 32% Omega fatty acids which is very high and rare for a seed. They are 61% Omega-3 (ALA) and 20% Omega-6 (LA). Both are essential fatty acids and aid in the prevention of heart disease.
  • Fiber: Chia seeds contain about 42% fiber; 5% soluble fiber and 36% insoluble fiber. Fiber is essential for a healthy gastrointestinal system and inhibiting constipation.
  • 21% protein and are high is essential amino acids, the building blocks of protein, for healthy cellular function.
  • Calcium: A serving of chia seeds (1Tbls) contains as much calcium as two cups of milk. The calcium in chia seeds aids in bone health as well as para-thyroid, liver and kidney function.
  • Extras: Chia seeds also provide iron, magnesium, potassium (equivalent to 3-4 bananas worth), Vitamins A, B1, B2, B3, phosphorus, manganese, copper, iron, molybdenum, niacin, zinc, naturally boost energy and are gluten-free.

An experiment carried out under the direction of faculty from the University of Arizona showed that rats fed chia seed and chia oil reduced their triacylglycerol levels and improved their LDL HDL ratios significantly, compared with a control group.

Why Chia vs Other Omega-3 Sources

Chia compares very favorably to the other main sources of -3’s:

  1. Flax: Today the main source of vegetable -3’s among dietary supplements is flax seed or flax seed oils. However, flax seeds need to be milled for effective use in human Ω-3 absorption, and unfortunately after grinding, it becomes rancid very quickly. In addition, whole flax seed contains cyanogenic glycosides and a vitamin B antagonist, both toxins, making whole flax seed a poor health choice for omega-3 oil consumption. Flax seed oil also has its problems as a "health food" as it has been used for centuries to produce oil based paints and linoleum flooring (another common name for flax seed oil is linseed oil). Daily flax seed consumption in Europe is controlled due to its adverse effects or is banned as is the case in France where flax has been banned since the days of Napoleon.

Chia seed oil is much more stable than flax seed oil. In addition whole chia seed has no cyanogenic glycosides, does not require pre-milling and its seed is digestible without grinding. Like flax seed, chia also contains no gluten, however the protein levels in chia seed are much higher than those found in whole flax seed. Thus, if choosing a seed based high omega-3 oil, chia seed is the safe and healthy choice over flax. There are no limits to consumption of Chia.

Fish: Another important source of -3 is wild fatty sea fish (Herring Fish, Salmon, Tuna). Fish oils rich in this fatty acid contain from 20% to 30% Omega-3. In the best cases, only 1.5% of fish body weight is -3. Fish oil also contains nearly 80% saturated fat and its omega-3’s are quite unstable. In addition, fish oil may contain environmental toxins such as methymercury and PCB’s concentrated through the natural fish food chain, and natural high toxins from the fish liver. World fish stocks are declining and gloomy projections about ocean contamination increasingly raises questions about the safety of eating wild fish. Today many fish oils have to undergo molecular distillation to remove these known toxins and carcinogens.  Many people refuse to eat fish oil based products of any kind including fish oil concentrates.

Chia oil is a stable, non-toxic alternative to fish oil with the added benefit of suiting vegan consumers.

  1. Meat: Beef, chicken and pork have very little -3’s (0.43%, 0.3% and 0.09%, respectively) and are therefore a poor source of these heart healthy oils.

Algae: Some algae contain relatively large amounts of -3. However, they also contain very large amounts of saturated fat Most Western diets do not include algae sources, however certain types of algae are useful sources of DHA, a brain and CNS functional omega-3.

Chia oil is a better source of Omega-3 than algae as, in the body, Omega-3 reacts with enzymes and A) counter-balances the effects of Omega-6 in the body and B) creates DHA. Taking algae based DHA does give you it’s benefits but does not give the overall benefits that Omega-3 does.

Chia: Consumption of either fish or algae based oils can be completely avoided if a stable plant based omega-3 ALA, like Chia, is substituted for them, since it has been shown that ALA is readily converted in useful amounts in humans to both EPA and DHA. In addition, ALA is a strong feedback inhibitor of the highly inflammatory omega-6 metabolic pathway which leads to the extremely potent prostacyclins, thromboxanes and leukotrienes responsible for pain, stroke and immune response. Too much omega-6 in the diet has been heavily associated with heart attacks, strokes and over reactive cellular responses to inflammation stimuli. Consumption of either chia seed or chia seed oil provides a good balance of omega-3:6 ratio in a Western diet that far exceeds appropriate levels of omega-6 intake.

But getting back to our story:

With all these facts in hand it is easy to recognize the significance of chia seed and chia seed oil as new entrants in the race for improved omega-3 consumption since they have the opportunity to become a reliable and safe provider of omega-3’s to start counterbalancing diets deficit in omega-3’s found in human nutrition and particularly that in Omega-6 rich Western diet.

Salvia hispanica L. ("Chia") contains one of the highest mixed levels of the essential omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids known in nature with a total of 33 wt/wt percent oil content in the seed at a very favorable and heart healthy 3.3:1 ratio of ALA to LA, the perfect counterbalance to the Western diet while sporting only 9-10% of saturated fat. In addition, the seed contains 20% protein, which when digested, provides a well balanced mixture of amino acids, including those essential to man. The remainder of the seed is mainly insoluble fiber, less than 3 percent carbohydrates, contains antioxidants not associated with the phytoestrogenic lignin found in flax seed, and the chia seed is gluten free. Chia also contains no toxic cyanogenic glycosides that break down to hydrogen cyanide in the gut, or vitamin B antagonists found in flax seed.

All seed that contains significant levels of polyunsaturated fatty acids like ALA (Omega-3) and LA (Omega-6), such as Flax or Chia seed, are highly prone to oxidative degradation, including self polymerization. When poly-unsaturated oils undergo decomposition, the resulting product is rancid and readily detectable by both smell and taste. In fact, it’s this self polymerization feature of expeller pressed flax seed oil (also known as linseed oil) that provides the important source for such products as oil based paints, furniture coatings and the flooring material known as linoleum where most flax oil is consumed. Yet, it is this self polymerization of flax oil that should raise red flags for human consumption.

Thus, despite flax seeds’ many positive traits, it appears that the emerging re-cultivation of Chia seed in the Americas and Australia may eventually displace a significant portion of the present 150,000 MT of flax seed consumed by humans and animals today.

Valensa Bets on Chia

Valensa International is betting a portion of its future on its belief that chia seed and chia seed derived products, such as its antioxidant stabilized oil, represent the worlds next and possibly best renewable source of plant based poly-unsaturated fatty acids. In addition, the extracted ground whole grain seed appears to have extraordinary value as a balanced source of protein and fiber, an unusual seed derived combination.

It was not easy getting there however. When Valensa initiated development of its Chia seed oil, TresalbioTM Omega-3 Chia Seed Extract, it quickly confirmed that the resulting omega-3 fatty acid rich oil they extracted from the seed was very unstable to oxidation much like flax seed oil.  Valensa also observed that nearly all of the available flax seed oil sold in dietary supplement form was already rancid on the store shelves because it appears to be poorly, if at all, stabilized. The company nearly abandoned its development program but after months of experimentation, Valensa successfully developed its O2BTM Peroxidation Blocker antioxidant stabilization technology platform providing extracted Chia seed oil that is stable for up to two years instead of a few months as originally observed. This fact encouraged the company to press on in its development of its unique TresalbioTM brand of Chia oil as the next generation of plant based omega-3 ALA.

Valensa’s TresalbioTM Omega-3 Chia Seed Extract is one of the most desirable omega-3 sources available for human consumption. It has a higher level of omega-3 fatty acids than any commonly used natural source with more than 600mg omega-3 per 1 gram of extract. For the consumer, this translates into a smaller effective dose with fewer unwanted constituents and calories.

Valensa’s Tresalbio™ employs its’ DeepExtract™ ultra-high pressure supercritical fluid CO2 extraction making Tresalbio™ the only CO2 extract of chia on the market today. TresalbioTM Omega-3 Chia Seed Extract contains natural antioxidants such as caffeic acid and tocopherols supplemented with Valensa’s proprietary all-natural botanical O2B™ Peroxidation Blocker Stabilization System. This produces an ingredient that is highly stable and resists rancidification, improving the products consistency and extending its shelf-life while retaining its solvent free, all-natural status.

Thus when Nutrition Now began development of a its’ new RhinoTM Gummy Omega-3 product line extension, they chose to use Valensa’s TresalbioTM Omega-3 Chia Seed Extract because of its oxidative stability and favorable taste profile when compared to other plant based and fish based sources of omega-3 oils.

Valensa is now exploring the utility of ChiaMax™ Omega-3 Low-Fat Whole Grain, the unique high protein and fiber meal resulting from extraction of Chia seed. This defatted ground whole grain offers a unique seed meal rich in protein, soluble and insoluble fiber, key minerals and is free of gluten which lends itself for a multitude of functional food, beverage and dietary supplement ingredient applications.

Summing up, the Western world needs a new, viable, stable, crop-based, alternative source of heart healthy dietary ALA. The solution has now been introduced by Valensa with its TresalbioTM Omega-3 Chia Seed Extract and ChiaMax™ Omega-3 Low-Fat Whole Grain. Valensa International, a leading manufacturer of targeted, high value supplemental nutrition products for a broad range of health concerns, is committed to quality and efficacy that consumers and partners can trust. Valensa’s Tresalbio™ and ChiaMax™ ingredients and products will continue to be manufactured and marketed to the highest quality while new related ingredients emerge to meet the health and wellness issues of today and tomorrow’s consumers.