Chia Seeds Are A Superfood That Could Help Combat World Hunger And Climate Change, Researchers Say

Fortune Well December 20, 2023

Lifestyle

Chia Seeds Are A Superfood That Could Help Combat World Hunger And Climate Change, Researchers Say

It’s long been known that chia seeds are a “superfood”—and new research provides even more reasons to back the assertion.

Scientists at Oregon State University recently sequenced the chia genome, as detailed in a paper published Wednesday in Frontiers in Plant Science. The team wasn’t the first to do so. But it was the first to take a deep dive into the genetics behind the crop’s nutritional properties—and make a case for why chia seeds may be one solution to the world’s hunger and nutrition crisis, in addition to climate change.

It’s long been known that chia seeds are a “superfood”—and new research provides even more reasons to back the assertion.

Scientists at Oregon State University recently sequenced the chia genome, as detailed in a paper published Wednesday in Frontiers in Plant Science. The team wasn’t the first to do so. But it was the first to take a deep dive into the genetics behind the crop’s nutritional properties—and make a case for why chia seeds may be one solution to the world’s hunger and nutrition crisis, in addition to climate change.

That means researchers must next turn to the improvement of “minor” or “orphan” crops like chia, cassava, yam, small grains, and pulses, they contend. During the study, scientists were able to locate genetic markers associated with the grain’s nutritional properties. Those wanting to create nutritionally improved chia seeds can use the list as a starting point for their research.

“We are at the point where long-term food and nutrition security requires diversifying the human diet by breeding and making genetic improvement to nutrient-rich, so-called ‘minor crops’ like chia,” Sushma Naithani, an associate professor in the university’s Department of Botany and Plant Pathology, said in a news release about the study.

More good news: The ability of chia to grow in marginal lands helps mitigate the threat posed by global climate change, researchers wrote. They hope to bring chia farming to Oregon, where climate conditions are similar to those in South America, where chia is primarily grown. Already, researchers at the University of Kentucky are leading the charge for chia development in the state.

“This research opens up possibilities for scientists to study chia seed through the lens of improving human health, while at the same time continuing to further our knowledge of all the nutritional benefits of chia,” Pankaj Jaiswal, a professor at Oregon State University’s Department of Botany and Plant Pathology, said in the release.


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