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Got metabolic syndrome? Eat lots of pulses!

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By David Liu, PHD

Sunday Spet 9, 2012 (foodconsumer.org) -- Metabolic syndrome is associated with an inadequate diet.  A new study published recently in British Journal of Nutrition suggests that high intake of pulses (dry beans) including yellow peas, chickpeas, Navy beans and lentils can reduce metabolic syndrome risk factors in overweight and obese adults.

Pulses are low in energy density and they can be included in a diet for people with metabolic syndrome to use to fight the medical condition that affects 34 percent of the U.S. population.  

R. C. Mollard of University of Toronto in Toronto, ON, Canada and colleagues conducted the study and found men and women who ate five cups per week for eight weeks reduced the metabolic measurements as effectively as dietary consulting (calorie-restriction).

In the study, one group of 19 overweight or obese adults with a mean body mass index of 32.8 kg/m2 were asked to eat five cups of pulses including yellow peas, chickpeas, navy beans and lentils whereas another group of 21 overweight or obese adults received dietary consulting to reduce intake of calories by 500 kcal per day.

At weeks 1, 4 and 8, researchers measured body weight, waist circumference, fasting blood parameters, blood pressure, and 24-h food intake while blood glucose, C-peptide, insulin, glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1), and ghrelin were measured only at weeks 1 and 8, after a 75 grams of oral glucose was administered. 

At the end of the 8-week intervention in the overweight or obese participants, both the pulse diet and dietary consulting  reduced energy intake, waist circumference, glycosylated Hb (HbA1c), systolic blood pressure, and glucose AUC , and homeostasis model of insulin resistance (HOMA-IR), following the glucose challenge. This indicates that using pulses is as effective in dietary consulting in preventing metabolic syndrome in overweight and obese men and women.

However, HDL, fasting C-peptide and insulin AUC responses were dependent on diet used.  HDL and C-peptide increased by 4·5 and 12·3 %, respectively, in the pulse group, but decreased by 0·8 and 7·6 %, respectively, in the calorie-restricted group.  Insulin AUC was found decreased in both women and men on the calorie-restricted diet by 24·2 and 4·8 %, respectively, but on the pulse diet it decreased by 13·9 % in women and increased by 27·3 % in men.

(C-peptide indicates the production of insulin. insulin AUC is the response to the diet.  High sugar demands a high production of insulin. These data did not seem to tell which regimen is better.)

The researchers concluded "frequent consumption of pulses in an ad libitum diet reduced risk factors of the MetSyn (metabolic syndrome) and these effects were equivalent, and in some instances stronger, than counselling for dietary energy reduction."

Another study led by S. Hosseinpour-Niazi of Shahid Beheshti University of Medical Sciences in Tehran, Iran and colleagues showed that  people in the highest quartile of legume intake were found 75 percent less likely than those whose intake was in the lowest quartile to be diagnosed with metabolic syndrome. The study was published this month in Archives of Iranian Medicine.

Metabolic syndrome consists of three or more of metabolic parameters including abdominal obesity, having triglyceride level of 150 mg/dL or greater, HDL cholesterol of less than 40 mg/dL in men or less than 50 mg/dL in women, systolic blood pressure of 130 mm of mercury or greater, diastolic blood pressure of 85 mm Hg or greater, fasting glucose of 100 mg/dL or greater, and insulin resistance or glucose intolerance. 

Overweight and obese individuals are at high risk for metabolic syndrome, which can lead to cardiovascular disease and diabetes mellitus if not treated.

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