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Study favours pulses in diabetics’ diets

Canada’s pulse crop promotion agency predicts good things from a Toronto study that finds pulses useful in control of diabetes as part of a Mediterranean-type diet.

Pulse Canada on Tuesday cited Dr. David Jenkins’ study, published Dec. 17 in the Journal of the American Medical Association (AMA), which also shows that pulses can augment levels of HDL, also known as “good” cholesterol.

Jenkins, a leader in research on the link between Mediterranean-type diets (including pulses) and their use treating ailments such as diabetes, heart disease and cancer, is the Canada research chair in nutrition and metabolism at the University of Toronto and St. Michael’s Hospital.

“This new study builds on the growing body of evidence that links pulse consumption with improvements in blood sugar control and cholesterol levels,” said Gordon Bacon, CEO of Pulse Canada, in a release Tuesday.

Pulses such as beans, peas and lentils “have enormous potential as disease-fighting agents and contributors to good health,” he said.

Bacon noted that Jenkins’ study results come less than two months before the expected release of a new set of clinical trial results sponsored by the pulse industry.

Pulse Canada plans to release the results of seven clinical trials, investigating the potential for pulses to help prevent diabetes, heart disease and obesity, during the Pulse Health and Food Symposium in Toronto on Feb. 5.

According to a separate release Monday by the Heart and Stroke Foundation, which has previously funded Jenkins’ work, his latest study split 210 participants to follow either a high-cereal fibre or low-glycemic index (low GI) diet for six months.

The goal of the study was to see which diet would help patients with type 2 diabetes control blood sugar levels more effectively and reduce their risk factors for heart disease.

GI low

Low-GI foods are thought to be important in managing diabetes, the foundation said, because the lower a food is on the glycemic index, the less of a spike it causes in blood sugar after eating.

Foods emphasized in the low-GI group included pumpernickel, rye pita, quinoa and flax-seed, hot cereal of bulgar and flax, large-flake oatmeal oat bran, beans, lentils, and nuts, the foundation said.

In the high-cereal diet, participants were told to choose whole wheat or “brown” cereals such as whole grain breads, potatoes with skin, brown rice and crackers. Low-GI fruits recommended were apples, pears, oranges, peaches, cherries and berries. In the high-cereal group, recommended fruits included bananas, mangos, guava, raisins, watermelon and cantaloupe.

Both groups were told to have three servings of fruit and five of vegetables every day — and to avoid refined grains such as muffins, donuts, bagels and cookies as well as French fries and chips.

Both diets showed improvements in weight, blood pressure and C-reactive protein (an inflammatory agent linked to heart disease), the foundation said. But Jenkins’ team also determined that the low-GI diet was better for the type 2 diabetes patients and concluded that the low-GI diet helped improve patients’ blood sugar control and their risk factors for heart disease.

Pulse Canada in recent years has placed added effort on finding new or undeveloped applications for pulse crops and their fractions (proteins, starches, fibres) in the health and wellness area.

The organization has backed new research as well as “data mining” — that is, reviews of previous literature and studies that may give more weight to pulses’ health-improving status.

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