Legumes Observed to Drop Diabetes Risk

High consumption of legumes reduced diabtes risk by 33%.

A new study published in Clinical Nutrition suggests that consuming legumes can significantly reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

Legumes include alfalfa, clover, peas, peanuts, soybeans, chickpeas, lentils, and beans, which are believed to provide significant health benefits. These foods contain high levels of B vitamins that are used to regulate metabolism and produce energy. Legumes also contain high levels of fiber, calcium, magnesium, and potassium.

Additionally, the legume family is are composed of phytochemicals, which have been observed to improve metabolism and protect against chronic diseases, such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes. The foods are also known to raise blood glucose levels slowly after consumption.

Legumes have been previously suggested to protect against type 2 diabetes, despite relatively little scientific evidence.

In the new study, the authors examined the link between legume consumption and diabetes risk among patients with an increased risk of heart disease. The authors also studied the results of substituting legumes with other protein-rich foods and carbohydrates.

Included in the study were 3349 patients who did not have diabetes at baseline. The authors gathered information regarding diets at baseline and every year for the length of the trial.

Patients with 1.5 weekly servings of 60g of raw legumes were classified as lower consumption, while those consuming more than 3.35 servings per week were considered higher consumption, according to the study.

The investigators analyzed the link between incidence of type 2 diabetes and legume consumption through Cox regression models.

The analysis showed that patients with higher legume intake were 35% less likely to develop diabetes, compared with patients with lower intake.

The authors discovered that lentils had the strongest link to a reduced risk of diabetes. Patients who consumed nearly 1 weekly serving of lentils were 33% less likely to develop diabetes compared with participants who ate less than half a serving per week, according to the study.

Interestingly, the investigators found that replacing a half serving of legumes per day with a serving of protein- and carbohydrate-rich foods also reduced the risk of diabetes.

While bread, eggs, rice, or potatoes were observed to reduce the risk of diabetes, patients should be aware that those foods should be eaten in moderation due to health effects. For example, high consumption of eggs could lead to cholesterol problems, since 1 egg contains more than half of daily cholesterol.

Additional studies are needed to further determine the health benefit of high consumption of legumes.

"A frequent consumption of legumes, particularly lentils, in the context of a Mediterranean diet, may provide benefits on type 2 diabetes prevention in older adults at high cardiovascular risk,” the authors concluded.