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Legumes & Mortality

iStock-1387721562A recent study has found a link between higher legume intake and lower all-cause mortality and stroke. However, no association was found to lower mortality from cardiovascular disease (CVD) or coronary heart disease (CHD).

The legume family includes beans, peas, lentils, soybeans, and peanuts. They are of nutritional interest due to their high levels of protein, dietary fiber, B vitamins, magnesium, potassium, and multiple phytonutrients which may confer multiple health-promoting benefits. However, numerous studies, including previous meta-analyses, have reported conflicting findings regarding regular legume intake and risk of mortality. Some results suggest an inverse association between legume consumption and all-cause mortality while others have found no such link. Results are also contradictory regarding cause-specific mortality, particularly relating to CVD and different cancers.

The current study aimed to re-examine previous findings with an updated systematic review and meta-analysis of prospective observational studies on general population groups. This was warranted as the authors noted previous meta-analyses in this area failed to include several cohort studies and the recent publication of a number of relevant studies, including over half a million participants, necessitating fresh investigation in this area. The analysis included 32 studies involving over 1 million participants and 90,000 deaths from all causes.

Study findings report a positive association between higher legume consumption and lower all-cause mortality and mortality from stroke, with every additional 50 g per day increase in legume intake associated with a 6% decrease in risk. However, they found no association pertaining to legume consumption and CVD, CHD, or cancer mortality.

The authors conclude that their results support current dietary recommendations to promote legume consumption in general populations as a cost-effective health promotion strategy. They note limitations in their study due to the observational nature of the studies analyzed and also highlighted the potential influence of differences in the types, quantity, and duration of legumes consumed across different studies, and cultural variations in other foods consumed with lentils (e.g., brown rice and vegetables in Asian cultures vs sausage and bacon in Europe/USA).

The authors, therefore, recommend further epidemiological research in this area to help clarify the positive impact of specific legumes on chronic disease and mortality risk.

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