Beans, Legumes Are Good for Heart Health

Beans, lentils, peas, and other legumes, when included regularly in the diet, are associated with a reduced risk for heart disease.

The umbrella review, published in Advances in Nutrition, was a look at systematic reviews and meta-analyses of prospective studies of links between dietary pulses with or without legumes and the incidence and mortality of cardiovascular diseases (CVDs) such as coronary heart disease, myocardial infarction, and stroke, as well as diabetes, hypertension, and/or obesity. They included the most recent reviews and analyses in the study, drawn from PubMed, MEDLINE, EMBASE and Cochrane databases through March 2019. Reviewers extracted relevant data and assessed bias risk. They then pooled risk estimates using generic inverse variance and expressed the estimates as risk ratios with 95% confidence intervals.

The study included six systematic reviews and meta-analyses, yielding 28 unique prospective cohort studies. The cases for each outcomes across the studies 10,261 for CVD incidence, 16,168 for CVD mortality, 7,786 for coronary heart disease incidence, 3,331 for coronary heart disease mortality, 2,585 for myocardial infarction incidence, 8,579 for stroke incidence, 2,384 for stroke mortality, 10,457 for diabetes incidence, 83,284 for hypertension incidence, and 8,125 for obesity incidence.

According to the results, when comparing the highest and lowest levels of intake, dietary pulses with or without other legumes were linked with decreases in CVD (RR=0.92; 95% CI, 0.85 to 0.99), coronary heart disease (RR=0.90=95% CI, 0.83 to 0.99), hypertension (RR=0.91; 95% CI, 0.86 to 0.97), and obesity (RR=0.87; 95% CI, 0.81 to 0.94).

No associations with myocardial infarction, stroke, and diabetes incidence or CVD, coronary heart disease, and stroke, according to the paper. The researchers graded the overall certainty of evidence as “low” for CVD incidence and “very low” for all other study outcomes.

“Americans eat less than one serving of legumes per day, on average,” study co-author Hana Kahleova, MD, PhD, director of clinical research for the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, said in a press release. “Simply adding more beans to our plates could be a powerful tool in fighting heart disease and bringing down blood pressure.”