Originally published April 20 2008
Interview With Dr. Wayne Coates: Chia Seeds (Part 2)
by Fred Liers, citizen journalist
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(NaturalNews) The following is part two of an interview with Dr. Wayne Coates, who is perhaps the world's foremost educator on chia seeds. Dr. Coates was among the first to grow chia seeds experimentally and later for commercial purposes. An expert in the field of new crops such as chia and jojoba, his career as a research professor at the University of Arizona spanned over twenty-five years. Dr. Coates holds a doctorate in Agricultural Engineering from Oklahoma State University, Stillwater. He is the co-author (with Ricardo Ayerza) of Chia: Rediscovering a Forgotten Crop of the Aztecs , University of Arizona Press 2005, (http://www.uapress.arizona.edu/book...) .
Dr. Coates continues his research and publication of articles about chia seeds (http://www.EatChia.com) and currently operates Arizona Chia (http://www.ArizonaChia.com) , which offers the CHIAN brand of chia seeds and other chia products, from his store in southern Arizona. Chia seeds have become very popular in recent years because they offer balanced omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, soluble and insoluble dietary fiber, high-quality protein, antioxidants, and many other nutrients.
Dr. Fred Liers: How did you become involved with chia seeds?
Dr. Wayne Coates: I have worked on many new crops over the years. Chia is one of them.
Fred: What are some new crops?
Dr. Coates: Jojoba is an example. We also have new crops like quinoa and amaranth. Chia is our main new crop. I also have experience with different aspects of standard crops, like cotton and lettuce.
I actually have been working with new crops since the beginning of my career at the University of Arizona in 1981. I am an agricultural engineer. I design machinery. My work with new crops relates to developing machinery to harvest them.
Fred: Where do you grow chia?
Dr. Coates: We grow it in South America -- in Argentina. That is where my research partner and co-author Ricardo Ayerza works most of the time.
Fred: What role does Ricardo play?
Dr. Coates: Ricardo works in Argentina on the production aspects of chia growing.
Fred: You grow chia in Argentina, but it came originally from Mexico.
Dr. Coates: Yes. Chia came originally from Mexico. Regarding chia production in South America, Mexico has small farms in most places, and it has been easier to grow larger quantities in Argentina. We started growing chia in South America, and we continue growing it in different countries down there because it works better for us. Ricardo lives there and so it is a lot easier for him to work there. The chia grows extremely well.
Fred: Do you seek out rich soils that yield nutrient-rich chia?
Dr. Coates: We know where chia grows best. We of course have to deal with other non-soil and non-climate related factors, such as finding the farmers who want to grow it.
Chia Seeds Compared to Chia Oil
Fred: You offer chia products other than chia seeds and chia bars. Do you sell chia oil?
Dr. Coates: Yes. We sell the oil in 250 ml bottles. It is available on our commercial website (http://www.chiaseedandoil.com) .
Fred: Is demand for chia oil rising as fast as demand for the seed?
Dr. Coates: Not as much because usually we downplay it. Why buy the oil?
Fred: When you can eat the seed.
Dr. Coates: You will pay a lot more for the same thing. In the seed you get the oil plus everything else. If you buy the oil, then you will only get the benefits of the oil. You will be paying for the work involved in pressing it and because there is all of the refuse leftover after making it that needs to be disposed.
If you eat the chia seeds, you will get a lot more bang for the buck, so to speak. That's what I tell people. Some individuals, of course, for various reasons cannot eat the seeds, or they may not like the seeds, and they want chia oil. I mean, okay, the oil makes a great salad dressing. It tastes pleasantly mild, just like the seeds.
Fred: Do you sell chia oil in capsules?
Dr. Coates: Yes, we have two kinds of capsules, blister packs and bulk. We have been selling them all along. Not a lot of them. Again, we tell people who call us wondering what form they should use to buy the seeds, if they can. Again, you know, why buy the oil?
The oil is relatively more expensive because once you start putting it in capsules, then you are paying more because you have got to buy the capsules, and the packaging, etc. The cost effectiveness of chia oil is not even close to that of chia seeds, especially if you are primarily interested in omega-3 fatty acids.
Fred: Consuming whole chia seed makes much more sense from the perspective of nutrition, that is, consuming chia as a complete food, a functional food, and a superfood. If you press out all the oil, for example, then what happens to all the leftover solids, the core material, which really is an integral part of the seed. Is it composted?
Dr. Coates: Well, that's another issue for concern. It certainly could be. But to date, there has been no use found for it. People are now talking about finding uses for it because it still has oil and protein, depending on how the oil is extracted. Plus, it contains everything else found in chia seeds, including the antioxidants.
Fred: I prefer consuming the seed, not only because it is a whole food, but because I enjoy using it in the kitchen. There seems to be unlimited uses for it. One of my favorite recipes is to mix chia seeds with fresh julienned fruit, nut butters, shredded coconut, walnuts, raisins, and sometimes cacao nibs. I usually add chlorella, Rejuvenate!, or other superfoods.
Regarding superfoods, you can find high-quality chlorella and two versions of Rejuvenate!, a nucleic-acid rich superfood containing chia seeds, at Integrated Health (http://www.IntegratedHealth.com) .
There is an original greens version (http://www.integratedhealth.com/hpd...) . There is a new "raspberry-cherry-vanilla" version called Rejuvenate! PRO. Rejuvenate! PRO offers more protein, a super-high ORAC value, and it's geared toward those individuals who prefer a fruity taste. You can find it on the website (http://www.integratedhealth.com/hpd...) .
Nucleic acids (RNA, DNA) have been shown to have very powerful health-building effects. These include boosting ATP production in the body, increasing lung capacity, and actually building functional strength. Simply increasing ATP production can by itself produce dramatic effects. Although not too many people know about the effects of dietary RNA, they have been studied extensively for many years, especially by nutritionists and pioneering doctors, including Dr. Garry Gordon and Dr. Benjamin S. Frank. It turns out that superfoods like chlorella contain extremely high levels of nucleic acids. Superfoods like Rejuvenate leverage the power of nucleic acids for greater human health. You can use these high-RNA superfoods in a variety of recipes, including delicious green drinks and superfood smoothies. Adding chia seeds to your high-RNA foods and superfoods is a great way to maximize the nutritional benefits of chia.
Speaking of recipes, I have discovered an amazing recipe for "chia fresca." I juice three organic limes. I put the juice into a blender with three tablespoons of chia seeds and fill the blender with pure water. I add a bit of Habanero pepper, then blend these ingredients on high speed for thirty seconds. You can let it sit for five or ten minutes. It's so delicious. I mean, the blend of chia, lime, and cayenne pepper is eye-opening! It has an immediate tonifying effect. In addition to the nutrients in the chia seeds, of course, there is the vitamin C from the lime, and you get this huge circulation boost from cayenne. "Chia fresca" leverages the nutritional power of chia seeds in a most satisfying way! And, of course, you can always add your favorite green superfood to it. You will find more chia recipes, including a chia gel smoothie, on the website: (http://www.integratedhealth.com/rec...) .
Dr. Coates: Yes, and chia seeds don't have any strong flavor, per se, so they blend well with almost any food. That's one of the greatest things about chia. Its flavor is innocuous. You do not change or dampen the flavors of foods when you use chia. You can mix it with whatever foods you want, really!
Black and White Chia Seeds
Fred: I notice you sell both black chia seeds and white chia seeds. What is the difference?
Dr. Coates: There is no major difference between black chia seeds and white chia seeds.
Fred: White seeds are popular. I have read claims that white seeds are nutritionally superior to black seeds. Some white seeds apparently have pending patents.
Dr. Coates: If you look at the research, the white seed simply is the white seed. It is the same as any other white. It all started in the same place. So not only is there no difference between black chia seeds and white chia seeds, but also there are no major differences among white chia seeds either. Regarding patents, I do not know how a patent could be pending.
Fred: If you tested white chia seeds and some patent-pending white seeds, there would be no major nutritional difference?
Dr. Coates: That is right. There would be no difference.
It would, of course, depend on the factors you test. There would be very minor differences. These differences would depend far more upon where the seeds were grown than upon the color of the seeds themselves.
Fred: I remember seeing in your book Chia: Rediscovering a Forgotten Crop of the Aztecs (http://www.uapress.arizona.edu/book...) the test results from a comparison of black chia seeds and white chia seeds showing that differences mostly depend on climate. Would you consider doing a study like that on a larger scale?
Dr. Coates: Possibly. There can be considerable costs, however, if you want to use a laboratory for analysis. There is no way of testing it other than using a commercial lab. The costs always depend on the types of analyses that will be done. For example, are you only looking at the fat content or are you interested in specific fatty acid composition? Do you also want to look at protein content? Then there are other factors like vitamins, minerals, and amino acids.
If you are comparing black chia seeds and white seeds, you might test black chia seeds from one location and white chia seeds from the same location. Then you might test some black chia and white chia from another location, and so on. You would need a variety of samples from different locations. These are some variables researchers would deal with when testing seeds. You see how complex a scientific testing process can be. It is never about testing a single factor.
But, as I said, we already know that it makes a much greater difference where the chia is grown than whether the chia is white or black. Those are the results we found in our own tests for our unpublished 2006 study, which is posted on our website (http://www.chiaseedandoil.com/black...) .
The greatest differences regarding the nutrients found in chia seeds simply relate to where the chia seeds are grown.
Fred: Is it possible that chia will be patented?
Dr. Coates: Well, you cannot patent chia seed because it is a natural seed. It would be like if I took some wheat and then tried to patent it. You cannot just patent it.
An applicant for a patent on chia may claim to have unique varieties. But actually showing you have a unique variety is not an easy thing to prove.
Most of these types of patents are "pending" simply because that is the first step when filing for a patent. You file and the application is pending until you gain approval. The process can take years.
The patent may never gain approval either because there may be opposition to it, or because there may not be a justifiable claim. An applicant must make valid claims. If the claims are not justifiable, an applicant can forget the patent. So "patent pending" means very little because there are lots of pending patents that for many reasons never go anywhere.
Fred: Agribusinesses obtain patents for seeds they modify genetically. Most health-conscious consumers are concerned about genetically-modified seeds entering the food supply, especially their own personal food supply.
Dr. Coates: Yes. But that is totally different. In those cases they have somehow managed to prove they have something different.
But in the case of chia seeds, no one can patent a seed that is already out there and freely available to everyone.
I do not closely follow seed patents. Some companies claim they are breeding selected varieties of chia seeds, and I have seen claims in South America for a registered variety of chia seed.
Registration of selected seeds certainly can be done. Different countries have different policies. But in general to obtain registered status for a seed, a potential registrant must absolutely show that the seed has been selectively bred and is uniquely different. They must document a lot of specific markers.
I do not think that can be shown for chia seeds because there is nothing to show. There is no evidence for it. There is nothing to my knowledge that has ever been published in a refereed scientific journal that would support it. If papers exist, they have never been published in a refereed scientific journal.
Fred: What about instances where specific varieties of chia might be used in scientific studies, say, for diabetes or blood sugar lowering effects?
Dr. Coates: Well, all chia is Salvia hispanica L. There are many trademarked names, some of which are registered trademarks. For example, our trademarked brand is "Chian," which is the Aztec word for chia. There are plenty of other trademarked names. For example, there are names like "Benexia," "Salba," and "Aztec White." Sometimes you cannot tell from the label what is being sold. You would hardly know what is in it. Sellers are obliged to say it is Salvia hispanica, but if you are going that far, you might as well say it is chia seed, because there is no difference.
Fred: I noticed your CHIAN brand of white seeds. I see a few black seeds in it. Have you compared your brand to other brands of white seeds?
Dr. Coates: Yes. Some of them are lighter in color. And not solely because of the light color of the white seeds, but also because there may not be as many dark seeds in the container.
Fred: Other brands may be somewhat different in color than yours?
Dr. Coates: Yes. But ultimately it all came from the same source. That's the thing. I do not know how the climate affects the color, per se, of white versus really white, if you know what I mean. We have not done any research into that topic because color differences don't translate into major nutritional differences.
Fred: That ultimate source being Mexican chia seeds.
Dr. Coates: Ricardo Ayerza and I obtained the seeds. We started in 1991. We started actually in Argentina, and then we took it to Colombia and Peru.
Fred: Growers of other brand-name chia seeds, like "Salba," for example, obtained seeds from you?
Dr. Coates: We worked with them. We know them very well. The two Mealla brothers. They are the two brothers out of Buenos Aires, Argentina. We worked with them in the 1990s.
They planted the same seeds. The Mealla brothers were involved right from the beginning. We were doing other things with them, too, at that time.
Fred: Many people may not realize that nearly all chia grown today came from the same source.
Dr. Coates: Yes, consumers should be informed. They should ask questions like, "where is the data that substantiates claims that white chia is better?" Or ask, "where has the data been published to back up such claims?" Or ask whether such claims are not just based on private studies done in a particular company's labs. A company can make all the claims it wants. But without independent, published research then there is no substantiating such claims.
Other questions might be "Who did the research? What methods were used? Where did the seed originate? Under what conditions was it grown?" And so on. Those kinds of questions.
I don't personally have the time or interest to pursue these questions simply on my own. But I think if someone wants to do something that would benefit everyone, then those are types of questions one can pose.
Fred: What do you see as your mission, in a few words?
Dr. Coates: My mission is simply to disseminate information about chia to people and to help raise their awareness. And we make high-quality chia available at low cost. That is what we are up to basically.
Fred: And again, your websites are?
Dr. Coates: Anyone can visit either (http://www.ChiaSeedandOil.com) or (http://www.ArizonaChia.com) . These sites are very similar, and they link to each other. One is mostly for online orders, and the other is for our store. And our educational site is (http://www.EatChia.com) . That is where we post our articles and other scientific information.
Fred: I would like to thank you for spending time with me today, and for sharing your knowledge with me and with everyone who reads this interview.
Dr. Coates: It's been my pleasure, Fred. Thank you very much.
About Integrated Health
Integrated Health (http://www.IntegratedHealth.com) is a specialty provider of high-end, high-purity nutritional supplements and superfoods, including chia seeds. NaturalNews readers receive a 10% discount on all products from Integrated Health by using coupon code NT2008.
Superfoods available from Integrated Health:
Chia Seeds: (http://www.integratedhealth.com/hpd...)
Rejuvenate! (greens): (http://www.integratedhealth.com/fea...)
Rejuvenate! PRO (raspberry-cherry-vanilla): (http://www.integratedhealth.com/hpd...)
Chlorella powder: (http://www.integratedhealth.com/hpd...)
Raw Cacao Nibs: (http://integratedhealth.com/hpdspec...)
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About the authorDr. Fred Liers commitment to natural health and healing began when he realized that conventional medicine and mainstream nutrition are not viable options for himself or his family. A natural healing adventurer, Fred continues exploring alternative therapies, and he now shares his extensive knowledge in helping others to discover vibrant health and wellness. He formerly taught at UCLA and University of Arizona. He now devotes his efforts toward health education with Health Products Distributors, Inc. (HPDI): www.IntegratedHealth.com.
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