Can Drinking Chia Seed Water Really Help You Lose Weight?
An emerging TikTok trend suggests drinking chia seed water can help you feel fuller longer, and therefore help you eat less. Hmm — let's discuss.
TikTok is good for a lot of things — think, staying up to speed on the latest dance trends and memes — but is it a reliable source for health advice? Eh, it depends. If there's a doctor on TikTok providing tips, such as this dehydration skin check, you can feel more comfortable trusting it (btw, this tip is totally legit), but others may seem too good to be true.
The latest trend suggests drinking chia seed water can help you feel fuller longer, according to TikTok user @happyandhealtholivia. In the video, they claim, "chia seeds expand in your stomach and form a thick gel ... reducing your appetite and increasing feelings of fullness ... which can help you stay in a calorie deficit." But is there any legitimacy to this concept or is this TikTok hack more of a quack? Experts (you know, people with credentials, not just TikTok creators) weigh in. (Related: Surprising Things You Don't Know About Chia Seeds)
Is Drinking Chia Seed Water Safe?
Chia seed water as it's shown on TikTok involves combining 1 tablespoon of chia seeds with a large glass of water, with the option of adding lime for flavor. This concoction of chia seed water is safe to drink, assures Alicia Shelly, M.D., F.A.C.P., an expert at Testing.com, which provides information and resources to help users make educated health decisions, noting that chia seeds are packed with fiber, minerals, and vitamins.
For a little history lesson, "in the Mayan language, 'chia' actually means 'strength,' which is due to the tiny seeds' ability to provide nourishment," explains Amy Shapiro, M.S., R.D., C.D.N., Daily Harvest nutritionist and founder of Real Nutrition NYC. Chia seeds are also rich in omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants, she adds.
The TikTok in question notes that chia seeds expand in the stomach and create a thick gel, increasing feelings of fullness. The experts, however, have differing viewpoints. Dr. Shelly advises against drinking chia seed water if the seeds haven't properly soaked for a period of time — she suggested about 20 minutes, although the time frames put the soaking at two hours (!) — citing a 2014 report from the American College of Gastroenterology, which cautions those with "a history of dysphagia [or difficulty swallowing] or known esophageal structure to only ingest the seeds "when they have had the ability to fully expand in liquid." Chia seeds, which have the ability to take in up to 10 times their weight in liquid, could expand and may pose a choking hazard.
However, Shapiro believes drinking chia seed water without waiting is actually okay for most people. Since chia seeds can hold so much water, "they do expand in your stomach and help to keep you full and hydrated," she says. Although chia seed water isn't a typical drink on its own, Shapiro suggests adding chia seeds to foods such as oatmeal and yogurt, as this can help you feel satiated as well as balance blood sugar levels. (Related: 17 Chia Seed Pudding Recipes That Taste Better Than Dessert).
Are Any of These Chia Seed Water Claims Legit?
While they might have mixed reviews regarding the timing of drinking chia seeds mixed with water, both Shapiro and Dr. Shelly agree that this TikTok drink does fulfill its promise of feeling fuller for longer. "There are three main reasons why this occurs," explains Shapiro. "First, chia seeds are high in fiber, which takes a long time to make its way through your GI [gastrointestinal] tract, keeping you full, as well as helping to decrease cholesterol levels. Second, they are rich in protein, which helps with satiety and keeping you full because it is the macronutrient that is digested the slowest. Finally, chia absorbs water so it takes up space in your belly, which will keep you full." (Related: The GI Symptoms You Should Never Ignore).
While the TikTok video suggested the drink would help you reach a calorie deficit, which is a long-held weight loss technique, Dr. Shelly said there is still a lack of evidence in regard to linking chia seed water, specifically, with weight loss. The gelatinous nature of the chia seeds when combined in water, will help you feel fuller longer, but there's no evidence to suggest this will lead to weight loss, or, frankly, lead to a calorie deficit in the first place. (P.S. Please remember there's so much more to food than counting calories.)
So, Should You Drink Chia Seed Water?
With any health hack or trend, drinking chia seed water is not for everyone. While Shapiro says that adding chia seeds to your diet is good for "anyone looking for fast energy, women on the go, and athletes," those "who are on blood-thinning medication, who have diverticulitis [an inflammation or infection in the digestive tract], who are on high blood pressure medication, or who have a history of nut/seed allergies may want to speak to their doctors first" in the event of health complications. What's more, anyone who has "problems with swallowing or digestive issues should not try this trend," as the expansion of seeds in the digestive tract or stomach could cause blockage issues, adds Dr. Shelly.
If you want to try the chia seed trick, do proceed with caution. While it may make you feel full it's not a magical weight loss drink — those don't exist. Should you want to add your chia seeds to something else, go for chia seed pudding, smoothies, yogurt, or salads.