Transcript: Diabetics Should Take Their Pulses
How did doctors treat diabetes before insulin? Almost a thousand medicinal plants were described as antidiabetic agents, most of which have been used in traditional medicine, and these included beans. Of course, just because something has been used for centuries doesn’t mean it’s safe. Other treatments for diabetes have included arsenic and uranium. Thankfully many of these other remedies fell by the wayside, but scientific interest in the antidiabetic potential of beans never vanished completely and even was raised in the past decade.
Health authorities from all over the world universally recommend increasing consumption of whole grains and legumes for health-promoting diets. And one of the reasons is that they may decrease insulin resistance, the defining trait of type 2 diabetes.
Diabetes is a global public health epidemic. Although, oral hypoglycemic medications and injected insulin are the mainstay of treatment of diabetes and are effective in controlling high blood sugars, they have prominent side effects and fail to significantly alter the course of diabetic complications. Common side effects include weight gain, swelling, and liver disease. But I want to emphasize that second part. The mainstay of diabetic treatment fails to significantly alter the course of diabetic complications. Shouldn't that be the whole point of treatment? Thankfully, lifestyle modifications have proven to be greatly effective in the management of this disease, and if there is one thing diabetics should eat, it’s legumes, beans, chickpeas, split peas, and lentils.
The European Association for the study of diabetes, the Canadian Diabetes Association and the American Diabetes Association all recommend the consumption of dietary pulses as a means of optimizing diabetes control. What are pulses? They’re peas and beans that come dried, so a subset of legumes, excluding green beans and fresh green peas, which are considered more vegetable crops, and also excluding the so-called oilseeds—soybeans and peanuts.
This review compiled 41 randomized controlled experimental trials, including more than a thousand patients, corroborating the official diabetes association nutrition guidelines recommending the consumption of pulses as a means of optimizing diabetes control. Any pulses better than others? Some of the strongest evidence came from the studies that used chickpeas, and in terms of beans, pintos and black beans may beat out kidney beans. Compared to the blood sugar spike of straight white rice, black beans and rice, and pinto beans and rice appeared to beat out kidney beans and rice. This may be because dark red kidney beans may have lower levels of indigestible starch. One of the reasons beans are so healthy is they contain compounds that partially block our starch digesting enzyme, which allows some starch to make it down to our colon to feed our good gut bacteria.
And in fact the inhibition of this starch-eating enzyme amylase just by eating beans, approximates that of a carb-blocking drug, acarbose, sold as Precose, a popular diabetes medication. The long-term use of beans may normalize hemoglobin A1C levels (which is how you track diabetes) almost as well as the drug, without drug side effects with names like acute generalized exanthematous pustulosis.
To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video. This is just an approximation of the audio contributed by Katie Schloer.
Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.