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Eating legumes cuts risk of metabolic syndrome

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By David Liu, PHD

Monday Sept 3, 2012 (foodconsumer.org) -- A new study recently published in Archives of Iranian Medicine suggests that eating a large amount of legumes often like in the Mediterranean diet can help prevent metabolic syndrome.

The study led by S. Hosseinpour-Niazi of Shahid Beheshti University of Medical Sciences in Tehran, Iran and colleagues showed that individuals with metabolic syndrome consumed only 1.4 servings per week of legumes, compared to 2.3 servings per week for controls.

Eighty men and women with diagnosed metabolic syndrome and 160 age and gender-matched healthy controls were enlisted for the study.    Anthropometric parameters, blood pressure, fasting blood glucose, and lipid profiles were measured by standard methods. Dietary information was collected through a food frequency questionnaire and legume intake was estimated for each individual.

After adjustment for potential confounders, men and women with their legume intake in the highest quartile had decreased mean systolic blood pressure, fasting blood glucose, and increased HDL cholesterol levels, compared to those whose intake of legume was in the lowest quartile. 

After further adjustment for lifestyle and foods, participants 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 association held true even after adjustment for body mass index.

The researchers concluded "Legume intake is inversely associated with the risk of having MetS (metabolic syndrome) and some of its components."

The study does not reveal what component in legumes may be responsible for the reduced risk of metabolic syndrome.  But dietary fiber, which is available in forms of supplements, may be one of the active ingredients in legumes that are responsible for the reduction in the metabolic syndrome risk, according to other studies.

Metabolic syndrome is a set of medical disorders that together increase the risk of developing cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Some studies have shown the incidence of the disease in the USA is 25% of the population.

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