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Beans Aid Weight and Blood Sugar Control
Want to help yourself avoid extra pounds and deter diabetes? Eat your beans!
A new review of the evidence supports prior indications that the humble legumes aid weight and blood sugar control.
The review, co-authored by UCLA School of Medicine professor Jay Udani, focused on bean-extract supplements that block digestion of sugars and starches (Barrett ML, Udani JK 2011).
But rather than taking bean-extract supplements – which contain just one of their metabolically beneficial components – it makes sense to simply shift your starch intake from grains to beans.
Whole beans, not supplements
Whole beans provide weight control and blood sugar benefits for two reasons:
  • The high proportion of so-called “resistant” starch in beans, which make you feel full faster and delay absorption of carbs for many hours after a meal.
  • Beans – especially white and kidney beans – contain phaseolamin (faze-ahl-uh-min) … a protein that inhibits a key enzyme (amylase) needed to digest starches and sugars.
For more on the basics – including grains that supply resistant starch – see “Beans Seen to Discourage Weight Gain and Diabetes” and “Beans and Lentils May Deter Diabetes”.
In addition, most beans are rich in the polyphenol antioxidants found in fruits, tea, cocoa, and whole grains, which provide myriad health benefits via their “nutrigenomic” influence on gene expression in human cells.
A number of “starch blocker” supplements consisting of phaseolamin extracts from white beans have been sold as weight control aids … with inconsistent support from clinical trials.
According to the review authors, weight control effects of bean extracts have been studied in ten clinical trials, with three studies demonstrating efficacy compared to placebo.
Two of these positive clinical trials were conducted by researchers from UCLA's School of Medicine, but were short term (one month).
A third study, by famed anti-aging pioneer Nicholas Perricone, M.D., and scientists from Georgetown University and Italy's dell'Università Cattolica di Roma, was a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study (Celleno L et al. 2007).
Study by Dr. Perricone and colleagues boosted beans
Sixty slightly overweight volunteers were divided into two groups, matched for age, gender, and body weight.
The two groups were assigned to take either bean extract or placebo pills for 30 consecutive days, just before a main meal rich in carbohydrates.
After 30 days, subjects receiving white bean extract with a carbohydrate-rich, 2000- to 2200-calorie diet showed greater reductions in body weight, BMI, fat mass, adipose tissue thickness, and waist/hip/ thigh circumferences … while maintaining the same amount of lean body mass (muscle) as the control group.
Eat beans for sugar and weight control
These and other studies also show that beans and phaseolamin-rich bean extracts alike reduce the spike in blood sugar levels after a meal.
Persuasive evidence indicates the value of reducing the glycemic index (GI) of foods for both weight management and controlling blood sugar in diabetes.
And as the review authors noted, reducing the spike in blood sugar following a high-GI meal – and thereby preventing a resulting spike in insulin levels – also reduces the risks of developing insulin resistance, which can lead to diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
So eat your beans, already!
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