Downing 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 small study out today.
Researchers 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 per cent to 9.6 per cent, according to findings in the Archives of Internal Medicine.
"Legumes are good protein sources, and proteins tend to dampen the blood glucose response and they lower blood pressure," said Dr. David Jenkins of St. Michael's Hospital in Toronto, who led the work.
"They are also good sources of fiber and that tends to be associated with lower cholesterol," he told Reuters Health.
Jenkins said that even though the drops were not huge, they were impressive in part 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.
"We hope that this could be the point that allows you to delay medication use," Jenkins said. But, he added, "if we can keep people on medications throughout their life and not have complications of diabetes, we have won."
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.
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