• 57°

Kannapolis researcher debunks running myth

KANNAPOLIS — An Appalachian State University professor at the North Carolina Research Campus says he has debunked a myth that dates back several centuries.

Chia seeds, native to central and south Mexico and Guatemala, have been frequently cited as a performance booster for athletes. The seeds are also known as being fuel for long-distance runners, such as Aztec messengers who lived in parts of Central America from the 14th to 16th centuries.

A recently completed study by Dr. David Nieman, director of Appalachian State’s Human Performance Laboratory at the Research Campus, found that the seeds were nutritious, but don’t provide an endurance boost for athletes.

“Runners have to be careful. There’s a lot of nonsense out there,” Nieman said. “The concept of chia Seeds has really been pushed way ahead of the science.”

Nieman’s study was published in the May edition of the journal Nutrients. The study was conducted through a funding partnership with the Dole Foods Nutrition Institute, which is also located at the North Carolina Research Campus.

In his study, Nieman tested 24 male and female runners aged 24 to 55. The runners were tested twice, at least two weeks apart. Each time, the runners reported to the lab in an overnight fasted state. At 8 a.m., they provided a blood sample. Then, runners were either given 0.5 liters of flavored water or  0.5 liters of water with chia seed oil.

The runners waited 30 minutes, ran to exhaustion at a marathon pace and provided additional blood samples.

If the chia seeds were effective as a performance enhancer, Nieman said, a compound called alpha-linolenic acid — an omega-3 fatty acid — would hit the bloodstream around the time athletes started getting tired. A runner himself, Nieman said he was hoping to confirm the benefits of chia seeds for athletic performance.

The seeds spiked levels of the omega-3 fatty acid, but had no effect on the runners’ endurance, Nieman said.

“There was absolutely no evidence that it was being used by the muscles,” he said. “The chia seed fat had no effect whatsoever.”

The myth that chia seeds have a magical effect is repeated by companies looking to market products and in books, Nieman said. One example he cited was Christopher McDougall’s “Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen.”

“Unfortunately, in America, you can say all this kind of stuff without really good scientific evidence to back it up,” he said.

He said the seeds are a nutritional food, but “they don’t magically transform your health.”

A better compound to focus on during intense exercise is carbohydrate, Nieman said. He said the best type of carbohydrates come from fruits such as dates and raisins. Bananas are close to the ideal athletic food, he said.

Chia seeds are traditionally used in smoothies, breakfast cereals, energy bars, yogurt, tortillas or granola bars.

The most recent study is the third conducted by Nieman. The first found that chia seeds had no effect on markers for disease. The second found that an omega-3 fatty acid only occurs in milled seed.

Contact reporter Josh Bergeron at 704-797-4246

Comments

Coronavirus

Brown, Williamson shed interim titles at Hurley, Corriher-Lipe

Coronavirus

During pandemic, some first responders see changes in call volumes, types

Crime

Salisbury police respond to five drug overdoses in three days

Local

April issue of Salisbury the Magazine is now available

Coronavirus

East Spencer town board to consider curfew during COVID-19 pandemic

Crime

Blotter: Man cited for trespassing, larceny at meat processing plant

Local

Post makes changes to ensure continued print publication

High School

High school basketball: McCain moves on after 5 seasons at South

Coronavirus

Rowan County COVID-19 case count increases to 22

Business

US Census: County’s population grew by 960 people from 2018 to 2019

Local

Political notebook: Hudson, Budd supported emergency coronavirus relief bill

News

Spirit of Rowan: Duke recycling unit at Buck Steam Station to repurpose 400,000 tons of ash a year

News

Spirit of Rowan: West Rowan EMS station will repurpose another part of old school

Local

Spirit of Rowan: Chewy bringing big business of online retail to Rowan’s doorstep

News

Spirit of Rowan: Cannon Ballers stadium anchors downtown Kannapolis

News

Spirit of Rowan: New hotels, overnight lodging contribute to economy

News

Spirit of Rowan: Railwalk Pavilion to be downtown’s new dynamic hub

Local

Spirit of Rowan: School’s media center finds new life as public library

News

Spirit of Rowan: 132 Flats sets precedent for new downtown apartment development

News

Spirit: New Bell Tower Green takes shape downtown

Local

Spirit of Rowan: Salisbury has ‘hit the metrics’ for new retailers

News

Spirit of Rowan: Rowan Little League builds a softball dynasty here

Local

Spirit of Rowan: Wallace Cancer Institute will provide services under one roof

Ask Us

Ask Us: What is the status of the empty lot at the corner of E. Innes and Lee Streets?