Oct 23 Eating a cup of beans or lentils every
day may help people with type 2 diabetes control their blood
sugar and possibly reduce their risk of heart attacks and
stroke, according to a Canadian study.
Researchers, whose results appeared in the Archives of
Internal Medicine, found that compared with a diet rich in whole
grains, getting a daily dose of legumes led to small drops in an
important measure of blood sugar as well as in blood pressure
and cholesterol levels.
After three months on the bean diet, study participants'
estimated 10-year risk of cardiovascular disease had fallen from
10.7 percent to 9.6 percent, according to the group.
"Legumes are good protein sources, and proteins tend to
dampen the blood glucose response and they lower blood
pressure," said David Jenkins of St. Michael's Hospital in
Toronto, who led the study.
"They are also good sources of fiber and that tends to be
associated with lower cholesterol."
Legumes such as beans, chickpeas and lentils are already
recommended for diabetics due to their low glycemic index, a
measure of how far and how fast a given food sends up blood
sugar. But there are few studies of their direct effects on
diabetes, according to Jenkins.
Jenkins and his team divided 121 people with diabetes into
two groups, one of which was instructed to up their intake of
cooked legumes by at least a cup a day. The other was told to
eat more whole wheat products to boost their fiber intake.
After three months, the researchers found that hemoglobin
A1c levels had dropped from 7.4 percent to 6.9 percent in people
eating beans, while it had fallen from 7.2 percent to 6.9
percent tin those getting extra whole wheat.
The number reflects the average blood sugar levels over the
previous two to three months. Experts recommend keeping it under
Jenkins said that even though the drops were not huge, they
were impressive partly because the whole-grain comparison diet
is a healthy one and in part because people in the study were
already on diabetes and blood pressure drugs.
There was no reduction in blood pressure with extra whole
wheat, but a drop from 122 to 118 points in systolic blood
pressure - the top number - with legumes and from 72 to 69 in
diastolic. Blood pressure readings are considered normal is they
are no more than 120 over 80.
Given the lower blood pressure, Jenkins and his colleagues
calculated that diabetics getting a daily dose of beans would
lower their 10-year risk of heart attack or stroke by just under
one percentage point compared with people eating whole wheat.
By comparison, cholesterol-lowering drugs are thought to cut
10-year cardiovascular risk by about 20 percent, or two
percentage points in people with a baseline risk of 10 percent.
The study didn't find any more gastrointestinal complains in
the legume group, apparently refuting the noting that downing
lots of beans leads to excessive flatulence. Jenkins did warn,
though, that the comparison group also got a lot of fiber, which
could have prevented a potential effect.
"The public should be doing some preventive strategies using
these foods," he said. "We are not introducing some novel
'Frankenfood' into the diet, this is really deep, traditional
(Reporting from New York by Frederik Joelving at Reuters
Health; editing by Elaine Lies)