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Study Confirms One Daily Serving of Beans Improves Heart Health

First Posted: Apr 07, 2014 09:06 PM EDT

Daily consumption of legumes, such as beans, peas and lentils, can significantly lower the risk of heart disease, reports a bi-national team of scientists from Canada and the United States.

A study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal indicates high cholesterol levels are associated with a higher risk of developing cardiovascular disease, but they are modifiable and can be lowered through diet and other lifestyle changes.

Although most chronic disease prevention guidelines have recommended consumption of non-oil-seed legumes (dietary pulses) such as beans, chickpeas, lentils and pea, as well as other vegetables and fruits, the study said, they have not offered any specific recommendations based on direct benefits received from consuming lipid-lowering foods.

The research was done by who reviewed 26 randomized controlled trials that involved 1037 participants.

Despite minor variations between studies, the research found a 5 percent reduction in low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol in people who ate one serving, or a 3/4 cup, of non-oil-seed legumes a day.

Men included in the study showed a greater reduction in LDL cholesterol than women, which investigators attributed to the belief male diets are generally poorer in nutrition and higher in cholesterol levels.

Therefore, men benefited more from a healthier diet

"The reduction of 5 percent [LDL cholesterol] in our meta-analysis suggests a potential risk reduction of 5-6 percent in major vascular events," John Sievenpiper of the Clinical Nutrition and Risk Factor Modification Center, part of the Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute at St. Michael's Hospital in Toronto, wrote with other study co-authors.

"Canadians have a lot of room in their diets to increase their pulse intake and derive cardiovascular benefits," said Sievenpiper. "Only 13 percent consume pulses on any given day, and of those who do, the average intake is only about a half serving."

The study co-authors said that although consumption levels of legumes is low in Western countries such as Canada and the United States, one daily serving is not only "reasonable" but is "currently consumed by many cultures without reports of adverse effects that would limit consumption."

Because the intake of dietary pulses "may have beneficial effects on other cardiometabolic risk factors, including body weight, blood pressure and glucose control, future systematic reviews and meta-analyses should evaluate the effects of such dietary interventions on these outcomes and others, to address factors that contribute to residual cardiovascular disease risk," the authors said.

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