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We Got ‘Spanked’ Over Salba?

Written by Wellness Club on February 9, 2009 – 7:46 pm -

Some time ago I wrote an article about the latest “Miracle Food” being proclaimed and promoted variously as “nature’s most perfect food” and “the food of the gods”… It was a good article, well-researched, and our readers enjoyed it. Well, most of them did… For a few others, it seems that I touched a raw nerve… A fellow named Gary wrote to take us to task for publishing a “misleading” article – in other words he says we lied to you.

Well, here is the article that cause Gary such upset – read it for yourself and see what you think. I stand by every word of it.

And here is Gary’s letter to us:

Name:   Gary Gxxxxxx
Comments:       Dear Dr. Myatt:

I switched over from flax to Salba and found a great improvement in my overall health.  This is a misleading article because the numbers attributed to Salba in the article are in actuality the nutritional information for Chia on the USDA website.  If you had wanted to compare Salba and Flax in a truthful manner, you could have gone to any of the Salba websites for the true and accurate nutritional information.  Did you happen to notice on the USDA website for flax that there is a caveat from the USDA that because of cyanogenic glycosides, they do not recommend more than 12% flax be added to a product, or ingested.  There is no such caveat with Salba.
Why don’t you put a warning on your packaging for Flax about this.

I will continue to take Salba because it has proven in a very short time through clinical research that it is superior to flax.  I know I speak for many people when I say that no one minds paying more when they know exactly what they are getting.   I believe it is very fair to pay less than $1.00 a day for the proven benefits that Salba offers.  Do your due diligence and don’t play games with your valued readers.

Yours truly,

Gary Gxxxxxx

P.S.  I have no affiliation with Salba.

Hmmm… Gary, you say you have no affiliation with salba, but Gary, the “from” line of your email lists two addresses: and the address of the CEO of the Florida-based company that touts itself as being “The Exclusive U.S. Distributor of Salba.” What’s up with that Gary?

Dr. Myatt takes this sort of letter seriously, and though it has taken her a while to reply to it (after all, patients come first!), reply she has: fully researched and referenced as is her usual way. Here is what Dr. Myatt has to say to Gary in response to what I’m sure he thought was a stinging rebuke to us:

[Dr. Myatt Notes: Note to readers: I believe this letter is a “plant,” written by someone with an agenda to promote Salba (chia seed), not a legitimate reader. However, I’ll answer it anyway to hopefully discourage other such bogus “responses”! (And to prove that we do in fact perform our “due diligence” when writing articles). ]

Dear Gary

I’m glad you’ve found salba helpful. However, I stand by every word we spoke about chia vs. salba, and it is YOU who needs to do your “due diligence” in this regard.

Here are the facts (fully referenced) in case you’re really interested.

Salba is a variety of the mint family; it’s botanical name is Salvia hispanica. Chia is the same herb, botanical name Salvia hispanica. Salba is just one varietal of Chia. Ergo ipso, Chia and salba are two common names for the same plant. Varietal differences do not show any significant nutritional differences. Learn more about this from a book written by the leading researcher on chia, Dr. Wayne Coates. (1).

The marketing of chia (sold under brand names of “Salba,” “Benexia,” and “Aztec White” ) are, in my opinion, largely designed to obfuscate that it is merely a brand of chia seed being sold. “Exotic” usually sells unwitting consumers better than “gee, is that the same stuff as my chia pet?” would. But somewhere on the label you’ll see the botanical name, Salvia hispanica. Again, “exotic sells.”

As to your comment that I should get the “real” nutritional information from the sellers website? Hahahaha! This is tantamount to saying “find out what a drug REALLY does by going to the drug company’s website.” Yeah, right. Independent research, not information presented by the seller, would seem to be a more reliable place to gather such “real” nutritional information.

In fact, here are the nutrition claims from, the website I was referred to when I typed in the site you gave me, Every nutrition claim they make on their website’s homepage is either false or at least misleading. (Can you say “marketing hype”?) The website claims:

“More omega-3′s than salmon.” This is a half-truth, which makes it also a half-lie. Salmon contains pre-formed DHA and EPA. Flax seed and chia both contain alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), a form of Omega-3 that must be converted in the body to EPA and DHA before it can used. Many people have problems making this conversion, so ALA is not truly equivalent to EPA and DHA.

Further, although this website claims “30% more Omega-3s (ALA)” than flax seed, there is no reference cited for this claim.  According to USDA nutrition data files and other sources, flax actually has slightly more ALA than chia.(2)

“25% more fiber than flax seed.” This one is closer to a truthful statement than any other made on the website. Actually, chia has approx 20% more fiber per 100 grams than flax seed. It also contains approximately 28% more carbohydrates than flax, making it a more “expensive” (in terms of carbohydrates) way to obtain those extra grams of fiber.(2)

Other claims don’t compare chia to flax, they compare it to something else, such as “more magnesium than broccoli.” Of course, flax has more magnesium than broccoli, too. And so goes the list of other chia-to-NOT-flax comparisons.

All in all, flax and chia are very close nutritionally. Chia may have more calcium and a wee bit more magnesium, but flax has a lot more potassium, zinc, copper, manganese and vitamins C and B-6. Remember, however, that most people are taking these seeds for Omaga-3 (ALA) fatty acids and fiber, not as a vitamin and mineral supplement.

There is one important nutrient that the chia folks avoid mentioning, and that is a special type of fiber called lignan. Lignans are a special class of fiber that:

  • contain phytoestrogens (plant estrogens) which balances human estrogen levels (3-7)
  • has anti-cancer effects, especially in hormone-related cancers such as breast, prostate, ovarian and uterine cancer (8-18)
  • has bone-building effects (19-20)
  • has heart-protective effects (21-24)
  • improves blood sugar control (25-29)
  • may decrease the risk of lung (30) and colon (31) cancer

Flax seed is the richest known dietary source of lignans. (33,34) I can find no authoritative data demonstrating that chia seed contains any lignan, although I suspect it does. But how much? And since all lignans are not the same, and the effects/studies quoted above have been done on flax lignans specifically, even if chia proves to contain significant lignans, it remains to be studied if these will have the same effects as flax lignans.

Here is a good t
able of comparison, with information derived from USDA  and other authoritative sources:

So.. flax has about the same fiber (a bit less, but also less carbs) than chia, it has more Omega-3 ALA and is high in protective lignans. And it costs a lot less. You can buy expensive “Salba” and other trademarked-brands of chia seed, but for my money, I’m sticking with organic flax seed for now.

Got flax seed? Get it here.

In Health,
Dr. Myatt

P.S.: “Cyanogenic glycosides,” also known as laetrile or vitamin B17, have long been used (with much supporting data) as a prevention for cancer. Laetrile is found in a wide variety of foods including berries, currants, millet, black beans and black-eyed peas. Populations with high intakes of laetrile have lower rates of cancer. Entire books have been written about studies on laetrile and the FDA’s cover-up of this valuable, naturally-occurring substance.

Of course, the FDA and other government agencies claim laetrile is dangerous (to protect Big Pharma’s strangle-hold on cancer treatment). So when you state that I should warn people about the laetrile content in flax, I think it should go the other way. I should actually brag about laetrile’s content in flax and the potentially important role it has to play in cancer prevention. Meanwhile, you can trust the FDA’s word on flax seed toxicity if you choose to. I’m sticking with the numerous proven health benefits of laetrile and the paucity of “evidence” the FDA uses to condemn it.

[Nurse Mark Notes: Dr. Wayne Coates whom Dr. Myatt refers to in her response to Gary is perhaps the world’s foremost educator on chia seeds. A research professor at the University of Arizona for over twenty-five years, Dr. Coats was among the first to grow chia seeds experimentally and later for commercial purposes. He co-authored the book Chia: Rediscovering a Forgotten Crop of the Aztecs, 2005.]

1.) Coates, Wayne; Ayerza,  Ricardo. Chia: Rediscovering a Forgotten Crop of the Aztecs, University of Arizona Press 2005.
3.) National Cancer Institute. Understanding Estrogen Receptors/SERMs. National Cancer Institute. January, 2005.
4.) Wang LQ. Mammalian phytoestrogens: enterodiol and enterolactone. J Chromatogr B Analyt Technol Biomed Life Sci. 2002;777(1-2):289-309.
5.) Brooks JD, Thompson LU. Mammalian lignans and genistein decrease the activities of aromatase and 17beta-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase in MCF-7 cells. J Steroid Biochem Mol Biol. 2005;94(5):461-467.
6.)Mousavi Y, Adlercreutz H. Enterolactone and estradiol inhibit each other’s proliferative effect on MCF-7 breast cancer cells in culture. J Steroid Biochem Mol Biol 1992; 41: 615–9.
7.) Basly JP, Lavier MC. Dietary phytoestrogens: potential selective estrogen enzyme modulators? Planta Med 2005; 71: 287–94.
8.) Can the combination of flaxseed and its lignans with soy and its isoflavones reduce the growth stimulatory effect of soy and its isoflavones on established breast cancer? Mol Nutr Food Res. 2007 Jul;51(7):845-56
9.) Kitts DD, Yuan YV, Wijewickreme AN, Thompson LU. Antioxidant activity of the flaxseed lignan secoisolariciresinol diglycoside and its mammalian lignan metabolites enterodiol and enterolactone.  Mol Cell Biochem. 1999 Dec;202(1-2):91-100.
10.) Arts ICW, Hollman PCH. Polyphenols and disease risk in epidemiological studies. Am J Clin Nutr 2005; 81 (suppl.): 317s–25s.
11.) Linseisen J, Piller R, Hermann S, Chang-Claude J. Dietary phytoestrogen intake and premenopausal breast cancer risk in a German case-control study. Int J Cancer. 2004;110(2):284-290.
12.) Ingram D, Sanders K, Kolybaba M, Lopez D. Case-control study of phyto-oestrogens and breast cancer. Lancet. 1997;350(9083):990-994.
13.) Dai Q, Franke AA, Jin F, et al. Urinary excretion of phytoestrogens and risk of breast cancer among Chinese women in Shanghai. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2002;11(9):815-821.
14.) Horn-Ross PL, John EM, Canchola AJ, Stewart SL, Lee MM. Phytoestrogen intake and endometrial cancer risk. J Natl Cancer Inst. 2003;95(15):1158-1164
15.) McCann SE, Freudenheim JL, Marshall JR, Graham S. Risk of human ovarian cancer is related to dietary intake of selected nutrients, phytochemicals and food groups. J Nutr. 2003;133(6):1937-1942.
16.) McCann MJ, Gill CI, Linton T, Berrar D, McGlynn H, Rowland IR. Enterolactone restricts the proliferation of the LNCaP human prostate cancer cell line in vitro. Mol Nutr Food Res. 2008 May;52(5):567-80.
17.) Saarinen NM, Wärri A, Airio M, Smeds A, Mäkelä S. Role of dietary lignans in the reduction of breast cancer risk.  Mol Nutr Food Res. 2007 Jul;51(7):857-66.
18.) Chen LH, Fang J, Li H, Demark-Wahnefried W, Lin X. Enterolactone induces apoptosis in human prostate carcinoma LNCaP cells via a mitochondrial-mediated, caspase-dependent pathway. Mol Cancer Ther. 2007 Sep;6(9):2581-90.
19.) Sacco SM, Jiang JM, Reza-López S, Ma DW, Thompson LU, Ward WE.Flaxseed combined with low-dose estrogen therapy preserves bone tissue in ovariectomized rats. Menopause. 2009 Jan 29. [Epub ahead of print]
20.) Kim MK, Chung BC, Yu VY, et al. Relationships of urinary phyto-oestrogen excretion to BMD in postmenopausal women. Clin Endocrinol (Oxf). 2002;56(3):321-328.
21. Vanharanta M, Voutilainen S, Rissanen TH, Adlercreutz H, Salonen JT. Risk of cardiovascular disease-related and all-cause death according to serum concentrations of enterolactone: Kuopio Ischaemic Heart Disease Risk Factor Study. Arch Intern Med. 2003;163(9):1099-1104.
22. Cunnane SC, Hamadeh MJ, Liede AC, Thompson LU, Wolever TM, Jenkins DJ. Nutritional attributes of traditional flaxseed in healthy young adults. Am J Clin Nutr. 1995;61(1):62-68.
23. Arjmandi BH, Khan DA, Jurna S. Whole flaxseed consumption lowers serum LDL-cholesterol and lipoprotein(a) concentrations in postmenopausal women. Nutr Res. 1998;18:1203-1214.
24. Jenkins DJ, Kendall CW, Vidgen E, et al. Health aspects of partially defatted flaxseed, including effects on serum lipids, oxidative measures, and ex vivo androgen and progestin activity: a controlled crossover trial. Am J Clin Nutr. 1999;69(3):395-402.
25.) Bhathena SJ, et al, Beneficial role of dietary phytoestrogens in obesity and diabetes. Am J Clin Nutr. 2002 Dec;76(6):1191-201.
26.) Prasad K.  Secoisolariciresinol diglucoside from flaxseed delays the development of type 2 diabetes in Zucker rat. J Lab Clin Med. 2001 Jul;138(1):32-9.
27.) Prasad K. Antioxidant Activity of Secoisolariciresinol Diglucoside-derived Metabolites, Secoisolariciresinol, Enterodiol, and Enterolactone. Int J Angiol. 2000 Oct;9(4):220-225.
28.) Prasad K. Oxidative stress as a mechanism of diabetes in diabetic BB prone rats: effect of s
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29.) Prasad K, et al, Protective effect of secoisolariciresinol diglucoside against streptozotocin-induced diabetes and its mechanism. Mol Cell Biochem. 2000 Mar;206(1-2):141-9.
30.) Schabath MB, Hernandez LM, Wu X, Pillow PC, Spitz MR. Dietary phytoestrogens and lung cancer risk. JAMA. 2005 Sep 28;294(12):1493-504.
31.) Cotterchio M, Boucher BA, Manno M, Gallinger S, Okey A, Harper P. Dietary phytoestrogen intake is associated with reduced colorectal cancer risk. J Nutr. 2006 Dec;136(12):3046-53.
32.) Ivon EJ Milder, Edith JM Feskens, Ilja CW Arts, H Bas Bueno-de-Mesquita, Peter CH Hollman and Daan Kromhout. Intakes of 4 dietary lignans and cause-specific and all-cause mortality in the Zutphen Elderly Study.American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Vol. 84, No. 2, 400-405, August 2006.
33.) Milder, I. E. J., Arts, I. C. W., Van de Putte, B., Venema, D. P., and Hollman, P. C. H. 2005. Lignan contents of Dutch plant foods: a database including lariciresinol, pinoresinol, secoisolariciresinol, and matairesinol. British Journal of Nutrition, 93:393-402.
34.) Thompson LU. Experimental studies on lignans and cancer. Baillieres Clin Endocrinol Metab. 1998;12(4):691-705.

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