A diet rich in beans and nuts has outperformed the long recommended whole-grain diet for people with Type 2 diabetes, according to a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
Scientists led by David Jenkins at the University of Toronto reached this conclusion after following 210 patients that had been randomly assigned to one diet or the other.
Both diets were low in trans and saturated fat. Both groups were instructed to consume 8 servings of vegetables and fruit per day (who does this?).
The bean and nut diet causes mild excursions in blood glucose after meals, and is therefore described as having a low glycemic index. It features beans, lentils, peas, pasta, rye and pumpernickel breads, as well as oatmeal and oat bran cereals.
The scientists found that participants consuming the bean and nut diet experienced a 0.5% decrease in mean hemoglobin A1C levels — a measure of diabetes control in recent months, as well as a rise of 1.7% in their HDL (good) cholesterol levels.
Those consuming a whole-grain diet had less than half the beneficial reduction in hemoglobin A1C and an actual drop of 0.2% in HDL cholesterol.
“That’s…important… because there’s a double whammy for people who are diabetic,” Jenkins told the New York Times. “If they’re men, they have twice the risk of heart disease. Women have 4 times the risk. If you can hit the heart disease, you may have something useful.”
Jenkins then added, “Pharmaceuticals used to control Type 2 diabetes have not shown the expected benefits in terms of reducing cardiovascular disease.”
“We’ve been telling people to eat whole grains for a long time,” said Emmy Suhl, a nutrition and diabetes educator at the Joslin Diabetes Center in Boston. “This study shows, it’s not enough to have whole grains. Low-glycemic carbohydrates do a better job.”