A study published in Nutrients has shown that women who consume Benexia chia oil, one of the highest plant sources of omega-3 EFAs, alpha linolenic acid (ALA), transferred high levels of DHA to their infants during breast-feeding. It is the first published study of its type involving pregnant and lactating women.

The study, developed by Dr. Rodrigo Valenzuela, PhD, Nutrition Department, University of Chile, and his team, measured the transfer of fatty acids (ALA, DHA EPA) to the fetus (blood phospholipids) and breast milk in women who supplemented with chia oil during pregnancy and lactation.

DHA is involved in multiple functions in the human body where it exerts a central role in the physiological and normal development of the individual from the embryonic stage onward. Obtaining high levels of DHA is critical during pregnancy and during the first year of life in humans, because it is essential for the formation and function of the nervous system and vision.

The authors explained that through a series of enzymatic reactions of elongation and desaturation, which occurs mainly in the liver, ALA is first transformed into EPA, then to DHA.

Says Valenzuela, “Our research has demonstrated that chia oil intake, a natural good source of ALA, allows an important modification in the EPA content of erythrocytes in pregnant mothers and an interesting increase of DHA in their milk.”

Sandra Gillot is chief executive officer at Benexia.

“The values of ALA/EPA /DHA suggest a higher bioconversion of the omega-3 precursor ALA from consumption of chia oil, and that it could be  a valuable addition to the diets of pregnant and lactating women,” she says. 

In the study, 40 healthy pregnant women (22–35 years old) were randomly separated into two groups: a control group with normal feeding and a chia group, which received 16mL chia oil daily from the third trimester of pregnancy until the first six months of nursing. The fatty acid profile of erythrocyte phospholipids, measured at six months of pregnancy, at time of delivery and at six months of nursing, and the fatty acid profile of the milk collected during the first six months of nursing were assessed by gas-chromatography.

The results showed that the mothers in the chia group, compared to those in the control group, showed three compelling characteristics:

1) Significant increase in levels of omega-3 essential fatty acids in breast milk, specifically alpha-linolenic acid ALA (60%) and docosahexaenoic acid DHA (50%).  

2) Increases in amounts of ALA (76%), and EPA (57%)in the red blood cells of pregnant women.

3) Good tolerance of the chia oil. Chia oil does not give a "fishy" taste or produce reflux.

Gillot adds, “This could help populations where consumption of fish is low or nonexistent. It is also crucial for the growing number of women who are following a vegan or plant-based diet.”


Valenzuela, R., et al. “Modification of Docosahexaenoic Acid Composition of Milk from Nursing Women Who Received Alpha Linolenic Acid from Chia Oil During Gestation and Nursing.” Nutrients 2015, 7, 6405-6424

Benexia Chia is grown and processed by Functional Products Trading, S.A., Santiago, Chile. Benexia offers superior quality, 100% natural, clean label, non-GMO, gluten-free chia ingredients to the nutrition industry. The company’s production is vertically integrated enabling it to control the quality from farm to finished product in a sustainable and fully traceable manner.

For further information, visit www.benexia.com.