Eating legumes good for arteries

Pulses improve circulation: study


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Local scientists have discovered that the secret to repairing damaged arteries might lie in oft-neglected legumes.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 20/04/2009 (4978 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Local scientists have discovered that the secret to repairing damaged arteries might lie in oft-neglected legumes.

Researchers from the Winnipeg-based Canadian Centre for Agri-Food Research in Health and Medicine studied the effect that pulses — beans, lentils or chickpeas — have on patients suffering from peripheral arterial disease. The condition causes arteries in the leg to harden and reduce blood flow, resulting in poor circulation, limited mobility, and puts patients at a five times greater risk of heart attack and stroke.

Team leader Dr. Peter Zahradka said the results were surprising — patients who ate half a cup of pulses every day for eight weeks saw the ability of blood to flow through their arteries improve by 20 per cent. Patients’ ability to walk also improved.

Zahradka said consuming pulses could improve the quality of life for patients with poor circulation due to arterial disease and help prevent amputations, heart attacks and stroke.

The findings were presented this morning at an Experimental Biology conference in New Orleans.

"If they have better function of their blood vessels they’re going to be able to do things like walk further," said human nutritionist Dr. Carla Taylor. "These individuals can only walk short distances before they get cramping in their legs. It’s going to really improve their quality of life."

The study is part of ongoing work by the University of Manitoba, St. Boniface General Hospital and Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada to research the link between diet and health. Scientists are testing to see if things like flax could be used to reduce the incidence of heart disease and to lower cholesterol and blood pressure.

The idea is to see whether food compounds can prevent chronic diseases and use them alongside or instead of pharmaceutical drugs to treat certain conditions.

Zahradka said he hopes the pulse research will spark food processing companies to consider incorporating chickpeas and beans into more foods, noting he’s tried cookies and brownies made from beans.

Study participants ate about 10 times more pulses than most people consume in a week, Zahradka said. Fourteen different meals were prepared, frozen, and delivered to participants, in the form of soups, chilis and lasagna. Baked beans were served only once.

"I’ve seen brownies — you can do that," he said.


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