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Beans May Reduce Metabolic Syndrome Risk Factors

34% of American adults have metabolic syndrome. A recent study suggests that eating more pulses (dry beans) may help you reduce your risk of metabolic syndrome by lowering cholesterol, lowering insulin resistance markers and helping you lose weight.

Metabolic syndrome is a collection of risk factors for type 2 diabetes and heart disease that includes excess belly fat, high triglycerides, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and elevated blood sugar. You only need to have three of these risk factors to have metabolic syndrome

Nineteen overweight or obese adults participated in the study. Over the course of eight weeks, half of the group reduced caloric intake by 500 calories per day and half of the group ate five cups of pulses daily. The pulses included yellow peas, navy beans, chickpeas and lentils.

Researchers recorded body weight, fasting blood parameters, waist circumference, blood pressure and 24 hour food intake at the onset of the study, at week 4, and at the conclusion of the study. They also gave the participants oral glucose at the beginning and end of the study and measured blood sugar levels.

After eight weeks, the researchers noted that both groups had lower caloric intake, smaller waist circumference and lower blood pressure. However, participants in the pulse group also saw an increase in HDL (good) cholesterol and improvements in insulin resistance markers. Those in the calorie restricted diet saw a decrease in HDL cholesterol and much smaller improvements in insulin resistance markers.

The researchers concluded that eating pulses could be just as effective as calorie restricted diets, and in some cases even better, for reducing metabolic risk factors.

The study was conducted at the University of Toronto and was published in the August 2012 issue of the British Journal of Nutrition.

Previous studies have shown pulses to be effective at lowering cholesterol and potentially helping with weight loss. Additionally, pulses are packed full of fiber, which has been linked with lowering cholesterol and potentially preventing breast cancer.

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