New clinical research released today shows that eating pulses - beans, peas, lentils and chickpeas - can help combat chronic diseases such as heart disease, obesity and diabetes and contribute to overall good health.
The results from six clinical trials were released today at the Pulse Health & Food Symposium in Toronto, Ontario. Leading researchers from across Canada as well as Purdue University and the University of Florida presented their findings to more than 140 researchers, health professionals, academics, food developers, government officials and industry representatives.
"Chronic diseases and other health problems are on the rise," says Peter Watts, Director of Market Innovation for Pulse Canada. "These research results add to the body of evidence that shows beans, peas and lentils have enormous potential to reduce cholesterol, fight cardiovascular disease, help with insulin management and improve gut health."
The clinical trial results show pulses can help manage weight-related health problems, such as type II diabetes and heart disease. Regular consumption of beans and other pulses can contribute to reduced serum cholesterol and triglycerides, which are two major risk factors for cardiovascular disease. The research also linked pulse consumption to improved arterial health and lower blood pressure.
Several studies showed regular consumption of pulses can be an important tool in combating obesity as they help increase feelings of fullness and contribute to weight loss. Diabetics can also benefit from pulses, which have a low glycemic index and can help regulate insulin levels.
"With growing rates of childhood obesity, an aging population and increasing concerns about health issues, finding solutions to improve the health of Canadians and people around the world is becoming increasingly important," says Watts. "Pulses are a prescription for healthy living right out of the grocery cart."
The clinical trials were funded through the Pulse Innovation Project, a Pulse Canada project which received a $3.2 million contribution from Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada's (AAFC) Science and Innovation program. The project's objective is to increase pulse utilization in North America to provide health and nutrition benefits to all Canadians and increase demand for Canadian pulses. The Pulse Food Symposium is a federal-provincial-territorial initiative made possible through funding from AAFC's Agricultural Policy Framework. Pulse Canada is the national association that represents growers, processors and traders of Canadian pulse crops.
Backgrounder - Clinical Trial Results
1. "The effect of whole pulses and their fractions on regulation of food
intake, metabolic control, and components of the metabolic syndrome"
Researcher: Dr. G. Harvey Anderson, University of Toronto
Co-investigators: France Cho, Christina Wong, Rebecca Mollard, Bohdan
Luhovyy, Anthony Hanley
Research at the University of Toronto shows that blood sugar and
hunger are reduced after eating pulses (lentils, chickpeas, navy
beans and yellow peas) and that they continue to reduce blood sugar
and hunger following subsequent meals. The research also showed that
eating pulses for eight weeks improves blood sugar control, reduces
the amount of food and calories eaten and decreases the waist line.
Researchers concluded that regular consumption of pulses could lead
to reduced risk of diseases related to excess body weight.
2. "Exploring the health benefits associated with daily pulse
consumption in individuals with peripheral arterial disease"
Researcher: Dr. Peter Zahradka, Canadian Centre for Agri-Food
Research in Health and Medicine, University of Manitoba
Co-investigators: Dr. Carla Taylor, Dr. Randy Guzman, Wendy Weighell
Researchers from the University of Manitoba have found there are
specific health benefits associated with daily pulse consumption in
participants with peripheral arterial disease (PAD). PAD, a systemic
cardiovascular disease, reduces blood flow to the limbs. The study
supports the traditional view that pulses (dried beans, peas, lentils
and chickpeas) are healthy. According to the study, regular pulse
consumption increased the intake of dietary fibre, folate, Vitamin C,
iron, zinc, potassium and protein. Eating half a cup of mixed pulses
per day for eight weeks also significantly reduced circulating
cholesterol levels and reduced the body mass index of study
participants. Total cholesterol decreased by five per cent and LDL
cholesterol was reduced by 8.75 per cent.
3. "Effect of daily pulse consumption on intestinal microbiota,
gastrointestinal response and serum lipids in healthy adults"
Researchers: Dr. Amanda Wright and Dr. Alison Duncan, University of
Co-investigators: E Farnworth, J Boye, S Tosh
Research at the University of Guelph has found that regular daily
inclusion of pulses in the diets of healthy individuals is well
tolerated and can improve gut health. The research shows promising
effects on gastrointestinal bacterial populations, which have been
linked with improved health. The observed changes in intestinal
bacterial population and metabolic activity suggest that pulses have
prebiotic activity in humans. Positive changes were also seen in
fecal pH and enzyme activity.
4. "Effectiveness of Two Levels of Pulse Consumption on Caloric
Restriction Adherence and Chronic Disease Risk"
Researcher: Dr. Megan McCrory, Bastyr University (WA) / Purdue
Research at Bastyr University in Washington and Purdue University in
Indiana found that consuming the recommended 0.5 cups a day of pulses
improves weight loss success and helps to reduce chronic disease
risk. Participants consuming the recommended amount of pulses (0.5
cups a day) had the greatest weight loss success compared to the
group consuming no pulses (less than 1 tbsp per day). Participants
consuming a large serving of pulses daily for six weeks had a smaller
waist size and lower diastolic blood pressure by the end of the
study. These participants also had improved fasting insulin levels as
compared to those consuming less or no pulses.
5. "The Prebiotic Effects of Chickpeas in Healthy Human Subjects"
Researcher: Wendy Dahl, University of Saskatchewan (now at University
Co-investigators: U Fernando, A Van Kessel, G Zello, R Tyler
Researchers from the University of Saskatchewan and the University of
Florida have found that regular daily inclusion of pulses in the
diets of healthy individuals may improve gut health. The research
suggests that regular consumption of pulses may increase the levels
of beneficial gut bacteria (Lactobacillus and Bifidobacteria species)
and reduce the levels of harmful bacteria (putrefactive and
6. "The effects of whole and fractionated yellow peas on indices of
cardiovascular disease and diabetes"
Researcher: Dr. Peter Jones, Richardson Centre for Functional Foods
and Nutraceuticals, University of Manitoba
Co-investigators: Christopher Marinangeli
Researchers at the Richardson Centre for Functional Foods and
Nutraceuticals at the University of Manitoba have found that the
dietary fibre-rich content of peas is key to regulating insulin
management in overweight hyper-cholesterolemic adults. Participants
consuming muffins made with either whole pea flour or pea fibre had
fasting insulin levels that were 15 per cent lower than participants
consuming control muffins made with wheat flour. This research also
indicates that consuming pea fibre significantly decreases insulin
resistance by up to 18 per cent. Insulin resistance, a condition
where the body no longer properly uses the insulin it produces,
increases the risk of elevated blood glucose levels and the
development of diabetes, which affects two million Canadians.