Science & Nutrition

‘A lot of room to boost pulse intakes for heart benefits’: New analysis supports cholesterol-lowering effects of pulses

08-Apr-2014 - By Stephen Daniells
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One daily serving of beans, peas, chickpeas or lentils may slash bad cholesterol levels, says a new meta-analysis that supports the cardiovascular benefits of pulses.

Data from 26 randomized controlled trials involving over 1,000 people indicated that an average daily intake of 130 grams of pulses was associated with significant 5% reductions in LDL cholesterol, while HDL cholesterol levels were unchanged.

Researchers led by Dr. John Sievenpiper from St. Michael’s Hospital in Canada noted, however, that most people in North America would have to more than double their consumption of these foods known as pulses to reach that target.

“The median dietary pulse intake was 130 g/d (about 1 serving daily), which may prove challenging in some Western countries given that the current median intake level in the United States is 0.2 servings daily, and in Canada only 13% consume dietary pulses on a given day, with a median intake of only about 0.5 servings daily among those who do consume them,” they wrote in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.

“However, this intake level is reasonable and is currently consumed by many cultures without reports of adverse effects that would limit consumption.”

‘Innovative food companies are already using pulses’

Commenting on the study’s findings, Margaret Hughes, VP, Sales and Marketing for Best Cooking Pulses, Inc., told FoodNavigator-USA: “This study reaffirms that putting whole pulses back into the diet can reduce the risk of heart disease. Consuming just one serving of pulses a day significantly lowers LDL cholesterol levels. And as the authors point out, incorporating pulses into the diet may also curb other cardiovascular risk factors such as blood pressure and diabetes.

“The take-home message is that by boosting consumption of whole peas, beans, chickpeas and lentils, we can help to reverse the epidemic of heart disease. In fact, innovative food companies have already begun to incorporate whole pulse flours into breads, crackers, cereals, food coatings and so on.”

Study details

"Only 13 per cent consume pulses on any given day. Pulses already play a role in many traditional cuisines, including Mediterranean and Indian. As an added bonus, they’re inexpensive" - Dr John Sievenpiper

Dr Sievenpiper and his co-authors conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis of RCTs of at least 3 weeks' duration that compared pulse-rich diets with diets of equal caloric level that did not include pulses.

The results indicated that an average daily dose of 130 grams of pulses (equivalent to one serving per day) were associated with reductions in LDL cholesterol, with men showing a greater reduction in LDL cholesterol compared with women. This was perhaps because their diets are poorer and cholesterol levels are higher and benefit more markedly from a healthier diet, they said.

“The reduction of 5% observed in our meta-analysis suggests a potential risk reduction of 5%–6% in major vascular events,” they wrote. “This is important especially for patients with hyper cholesterolemia who prefer dietary approaches to managing their cholesterol levels or for those who cannot tolerate statin therapies.”

Source: CMAJ
Published online ahead of print, April 7, 2014, doi: 10.1503/cmaj.131727
“Effect of dietary pulse intake on established therapeutic lipid targets for cardiovascular risk reduction: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials”
Authors: V. Ha, J.L. Sievenpiper, R.J. de Souza,

Related topics: Science & Nutrition, Fruit, vegetable, nut ingredients, Health and nutritional ingredients