Eating Beans Helps Lower Cholesterol
By Rosalie Marion
Bliss November 28, 2007
Consuming as little as one-half cup of cooked dry beans every day
helped volunteers lower their total cholesterol levels in an Agricultural
Research Service (ARS) study in North
Dakota. These results, published in the November issue of the Journal of Nutrition by the ARS
scientists and their colleagues, add to a growingand convincingbody
of evidence that beans are a heart healthy food choice.
The lead authors, chemist
Reeves and nutritionist John Finley (no longer with ARS), conducted the
study at the agency's
Forks Human Nutrition Research Center in Grand Forks, N.D. ARS is the
U.S. Department of Agriculture's chief
scientific research agency.
Experts consider a lipid profile, which provides a complete
cholesterol count based on blood tests, to be a valid biomarker for the risk of
cardiovascular disease. Because cardiovascular disease is a lifestyle-related
disease, interventions that improve cholesterol profiles are considered
beneficial to health. Positive changes in physical activity and diet may result
in substantial improvements.
The researchers tested 80 volunteers aged 18 to 55 years. Half were
healthy, while half had at least two symptoms that lead to metabolic syndrome,
a combination of conditions that signal a risk for cardiovascular disease.
Those with "pre-metabolic-syndrome" had abdominal obesity and either high
triglyceride levels, low HDL "good" cholesterol, high blood sugar, or high
For 12 weeks, half of the group was randomly selected to eat one-half
cup of cooked dry pinto beans daily along with their regular daily diet. The
others ate a replacement serving of chicken soup instead of the pinto beans.
The findings show that, compared to measures taken prior to the 12-week test
phase, all the volunteersthe healthy ones as well as those with
symptomswho ate pinto beans saw a reduction in their cholesterol levels.
While the findings confirm earlier studies by other researchers
showing that eating beans lowers cholesterol levels, the mechanisms that
underlie the effect require further study.
Funding was provided in part by a grant from the
U.S. Agency for International Development
through the Accord, Mass.-based Beans
for Health Alliance.