Single Serving of Beans Found to Boost Vascular Function

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Adding just a 3/4 cup serving of certain beans to your next meal could provide a secret heart health boost, reveals new research

New research reveals that eating beans, especially darker varieties like black beans and red kidney beans, leads to positive effects on blood vessel health compared to white rice.1 In this pilot randomized crossover trial, participants showed improved blood vessel relaxation and cardiovascular markers after single bean meals. The findings suggest regularly incorporating beans into diet could support long-term cardiovascular wellness through cumulative vascular benefits.

Heart disease remains the leading cause of mortality worldwide.2 Lifestyle measures like healthy diets can meaningfully impact cardiovascular risk factors.3 Epidemiological and clinical research highlight legumes, including beans, peas, lentils and chickpeas, as particularly cardioprotective.4 However, few studies examine the immediate impacts single bean meals have on vascular function.

This groundbreaking trial assessed postprandial vascular, blood pressure, and cholesterol responses to four different bean types - black, navy, pinto, red kidney - compared to white rice in healthy adults.5 Participants attended 5 separate morning visits to consume a test meal after fasting. Researchers tracked blood vessel tone, stiffness, and resulting blood pressure for 6 hours through novel devices like the Mobil-O-Graph pulse wave analysis monitor.6

Excitingly, the darker pigmented beans, black beans and red kidney beans, outperformed rice and lighter beans at improving blood vessel relaxation and elasticity post-meal.7 For example, pulse wave velocity, linked to vessel stiffness, lowered after eating red kidney beans and pinto beans versus rice or navy beans respectively.8 Augmentation pressure and wave reflection magnitude also decreased more following black bean and red kidney bean meals compared to rice and the paler beans.9 This finding may have to do with the potential therapeutic value of naturally occurring pigments known as bio-melanin, which we have reported on in previous articles has having profound health benefits, including radioprotective properties

Beyond vascular metrics, systolic blood pressure declined more 2 hours after consuming red kidney beans and pinto beans rather than rice or navy beans.10 LDL cholesterol levels measured lower 6 hours after eating black beans versus rice.11 No significant glucose or insulin spikes occurred.12

Taken together, these pilot data indicate that single servings of beans, especially darker pigmented varieties, can positively impact postprandial cardiovascular responses in healthy people. The study's lead author, Dr. Jaime L. Clark, explains the acute benefits likely result from bioactive compounds in beans that induce nitric oxide-mediated blood vessel relaxation.13

While larger trials should investigate specific bean components and mechanisms, these initial findings hold promise for supporting long-term cardiovascular wellness through regular legume consumption. Simply adding beans to diet could provide cumulative protective effects, reducing cardiovascular disease risk through improved vascular function.14 So working some delicious, heart-healthy beans into your next meal could also do a heart good!  

Learn more about natural approaches to cardiovascular disease here.

Learn more about the health benefits of beans here.


References

1. Jaime L Clark et al., "Black Beans and Red Kidney Beans Induce Positive Postprandial Vascular Responses in Healthy Adults," Nutrition, Metabolism and Cardiovascular Diseases 31, no. 1 (January 2021): 216-26, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.numecd.2020.07.042.

2. "The Top 10 Causes of Death," World Health Organization, December 9, 2020, https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/the-top-10-causes-of-death.

3. Hussein Tiyyagura et al., "The Effect of Diet on Cardiovascular Disease Risk Factors: A Systematic Review of Diet Counselling Randomised Controlled Interventions," Clinical Nutrition 39, no. 4 (April 2020): 1061-72, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.clnu.2019.06.005.

4. Oliveira Marques et al., "Pulses for Sustainability, Health and Food Security," Cereal Chemistry 98, no. 3 (May 2021), https://doi.org/10.1002/cche.10464.

5. Clark et al., "Black Beans and Red Kidney Beans Induce Positive Postprandial Vascular Responses in Healthy Adults."

6. Ibid.

7. Ibid.

8. Ibid. 

9. Ibid.

10. Ibid. 

11. Ibid. 

12. Ibid.

13. Ibid.

14. Ibid.

Disclaimer: This article is not intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of GreenMedInfo or its staff.

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