With diabetes on the rise among young people in America as rates go up among teens and children by about 4.8 percent every year, according to U.S. News and World Report, a study at a Canadian university has found a way that could help control the effects of Type 2 diabetes or even prevent the disease — eat more lentils.
Researchers at the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada, say that based on their study published earlier this year in The Journal of Nutrition, there’s no need to switch to an all-lentil diet in order to gain the benefits of the lentil bean — a type of food called a “pulse.” Simply replacing half of the starches, such as rice or potatoes, in regularly-eaten dishes with one of three types of lentils can lead to a drop in blood glucose levels of up to 35 percent.
Replacing potatoes with lentils in the study produced the 35 percent blood sugar drop. When lentils were mixed with rice, replacing about half of the rice in a side dish along with a meal, subjects in the study saw drops of about 20 percent in their blood glucose, according to a summary of the study published by Science Daily. The study was conducted on 24 healthy adults.
The researchers measured the blood sugar levels of the healthy subjects before they ate their lentil-enriched meals, and then measured a second time two hours afterward, according to a report on the study by The Daily Mail.
“Pulses are the edible seeds of plants in the legume family,” the site Pulses.org explains. “Pulses grow in pods and come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and colors.”
“Pulses are extremely nutrient-dense food that have the potential to reduce chronic diseases associated with mismanaged glucose levels,” said University of Guelph nutrition professor Alison Duncan. “Only 13 percent of Canadians eat (lentils) on any given day. We are hoping this research will make people more aware of the health benefits of eating pulses.”
The adults in the study consumed four types of dishes, starting with a dish of white rice only. The other three types of meals consumed in the study mixed white rice with split red lentils, large green lentils, and small green lentils, according to Medical Express.
“We mixed the lentils in with the potatoes and rice because people don’t typically eat pulses on their own, but rather consume them in combination with other starches as part of a larger meal, so we wanted the results to reflect that,” Duncan said.
Why do lentils and other pulses have the beneficial health effects found by the study, causing blood glucose levels to drop? By slowing the digestion of starches and as a result, the rate at which they release sugars into the human bloodstream, Duncan said.
“This slower absorption means you don’t experience a spike in glucose. Having high levels over a period of time can lead to mismanagement of blood glucose, which is the hallmark of Type 2 diabetes. Essentially, eating lentils can lower that risk,” the University of Guelph researcher explained.