Eating more beans, lentils and chickpeas (legumes) each day could help people with type 2 diabetes control their blood sugars and cut their risk of cardiovascular disease, a new study has found.
Legumes are already generally recommended for diabetic diets due to their low glycemic index (GI), which measures the effects of sugar in food on blood glucose. But according to David Jenkins, of St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto, they have never been used specifically to lower the GI of the diet .
To investigate this, Dr Jenkins and colleagues compared to two groups of people – one which was told to increase legume intake by at least 1 cup per day, and one which was told to eat more whole wheat products to boost their fibre intake.
After three months, all the subjects experienced a small drop in average blood sugar levels, but the decline was slightly larger among those on the low-GI legume diet (-0.5pc compared to -0.3pc). The latter also saw a drop in both systolic and diastolic blood pressure readings, compared to no blood pressure reduction in the extra whole wheat group.
Based on the improved figures, the researchers calculated that a daily dose of legumes would lower a type 2 diabetic’s 10-year risk of heart attack or stroke by 0.8 per cent, compared with a high wheat fibre diet.
“Legumes, which we always thought were good for the heart, actually are good for the heart in ways we didn’t expect,” said Jenkins.
In an accompanying editorial, US-based nutrition expert Marion Franz said “the study clearly shows that legumes are part of a healthy eating pattern.”
But she noted that people with type 2 diabetes may find it hard to stomach a cup of beans or chickpeas a day, and also said it’s unclear whether the benefits are related to their low GI or high fibre content.
The findings and commentary are published online in the Archives of Internal Medicine .

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