Adding just one serving of pulses a day to the diet could help people lose weight and keep it off, concludes a new study.
In The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, researchers found that people who ate 130 g of pulses every day for an average of 6 weeks lost weight, compared with those who did not eat pulses daily, even when they made no other notable dietary changes.
A part of the legume family, pulses include dried beans, dried peas, chickpeas and lentils.
Pulses are low in fat and high in protein and fiber, making them an ideal food choice for individuals who do not get protein from meat, fish or dairy products. They are also high in iron, zinc, phosphorus, folate and many other vitamins and minerals.
Numerous studies have documented the heath benefits of pulses. In 2014, for example, Medical News Today reported on a study suggesting a serving of pulses each day may lower “bad” low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol by 5%.
Now, new research suggests adding a daily serving of pulses to the diet could also help tackle overweight and obesity.
To reach their findings, lead author Dr. Russell de Souza, of the Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto, Canada, and colleagues conducted a meta-analysis of 21 clinical trials involving 940 participants.
- Around 78.6 million adults are obese
- In 2008, obesity cost the US around $147 billion
- Obesity can increase the risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke and some types of cancer.
These trials compared the weight-loss effects of diets containing dietary pulses with diets that did not, and each trial was conducted for a minimum of 3 weeks.
Over a median duration of 6 weeks, the team found that individuals who consumed 130 g (3/4 cup) of pulses daily had an average weight loss of 0.34 kg – just over half a pound – compared with people who did not eat pulses daily.
What is more, the team notes that the pulse-consuming individuals who experienced weight loss made no other major changes to their diets.
Previous research from Dr. de Souza and colleagues found that eating pulses can increase the feeling of fullness by around 31%, which they say may explain these latest findings.
Because pulses have a low glycemic index (GI), meaning they are broken down slowly, they make us feel full for longer, which can result in reduced food intake and weight loss.
The US is in the midst of an obesity epidemic, where more than a third of Americans are obese, highlighting the need for effective weight-loss strategies.
Dr. de Souza notes that around 90% of current weight-loss interventions do not work, which he says may be partly down to hunger and food cravings. Could a daily helping of pulses aid long-term weight loss?
Dr. de Souza says:
“Though the weight loss was small, our findings suggest that simply including pulses in your diet may help you lose weight, and we think more importantly, prevent you from gaining it back after you lose it.”
Earlier this year, MNT reported on a study that sheds light on why exercise alone does not aid long-term weight loss.