Hyderabad, Aug 18 (IANS) The consumption of millets can reduce total cholesterol, triacylglycerols (commonly known as triglycerides), and BMI, according to a new study analysing the data of 19 studies with nearly 900 people.
The study was undertaken by five organisations and led by the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT).
The results, published in Frontiers in Nutrition, brings critically needed scientific backing to the efforts to popularise and return millets to diets, especially as staples, to combat the growing prevalence of obesity and being overweight in children, adolescents, and adults.
The study showed that consuming millets reduced total cholesterol by 8 per cent, lowering it from high to normal levels in the people studied. There was nearly a 10 per cent decrease in low and very low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (commonly viewed as 'bad cholesterol') and triacylglycerol levels in blood. Through these reductions, the levels went from above normal to normal range. In addition, consuming millets decreased blood pressure with the diastolic blood pressure (the bottom number in the BP reading) decreasing by 5 per cent.
"We were very surprised how many studies on humans had already been undertaken on the impact of millets on elements that impact cardiovascular diseases,and this is the very first time anyone has collated all these studies and analysed their data to test the significance of the impact. We used a meta-analysis, and results came out very strongly to show significant positive impact on risk factors for cardiovascular disease," study's lead author and senior nutritionist at the ICRISAT, Dr S. Anitha said.
The study also showed that consuming millets reduced BMI by 7 per cent in people who were overweight and obese, (from 28.5 (+/-2.4) to 26.7 (+/-1.8) kg/m2), showing the possibility of returning to a normal BMI (less that 25 kg/m2). All results are based on consumption of 50 to 200 g of millets per day for a duration ranging from 21 days to four months.
These findings are influenced by comparisons that show that millets are much higher in unsaturated fatty acids, with 2 to 10 times higher levels than refined wheat and milled rice as well as being much higher than whole grain wheat.
"Unhealthy diet is a major contributor to the rising incidence of diseases, like cardiovascular disease and diabetes. The results of this study along with our recent study that showed that the consumption of millets reduced the risk of developing type 2 diabetes and helped manage type 2 diabetes, highlights a critical need to look carefully at how to most appropriately bring millets back into the diets in India and ensure this reaches the majority," National Institute of Nutrition (NIN) Director, Dr Hemalatha, said.
"Obesity and being overweight are increasing globally in both wealthy and poorer countries, so the need for solutions based on healthier diets is critical. This new information on the health benefits of millets further supports the need to invest more in the grain, including its whole value chain from better varieties for farmers through to agribusiness developments," ICRISAT Director General, Dr Jacqueline Hughes, said.
The study identified a number of priority future research areas including the need to study all different types of millets, understand any differences by variety alongside the different types of cooking and processing of millets and their impact on cardiovascular health.
Given the positive indicators to date, more detailed analysis on the impact of millets on weight management is also recommended. All relevant parameters are also recommended to be assessed to gain a deeper understanding of the impacts millets consumption on hyperlipidemia and cardiovascular disease.
A new study has shown that eating millets reduces the risk of developing type 2 diabetes and helps manage blood glucose levels in people with diabetes.
The study indicates the potential to design appropriate meals with millets for diabetic and pre-diabetic people as well as for non-diabetic people as a preventive approach.
Drawing on research from 11 countries, the study published in Frontiers in Nutrition shows that diabetic people who consumed millets as part of their daily diet saw their blood glucose levels drop 12-15% (fasting and post-meal), and blood glucose levels went from diabetic to pre-diabetes levels.
The HbA1c (blood glucose bound to hemoglobin) levels lowered on average 17% for pre-diabetic individuals, and the levels went from prediabetic to normal status. These findings affirm that eating millets can lead to a better glycemic response.
The authors reviewed 80 published studies of which 65 were eligible for a meta-analysis involving about 1,000 human subjects, making this analysis the largest systematic review on the topic till date, said International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT).
"No one knew there were so many scientific studies undertaken on millets' effect on diabetes. These benefits were often contested, and this systematic review of the studies published in scientific journals has proven that millets keep blood glucose levels in check, reducing the risk of diabetes, and has shown just how well these smart foods do it," said Dr. S Anitha, the study's lead author and a senior nutrition scientist at International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT).
"Diabetes contributed to very high disease burden from 1990-2016 in India. Diabetes-related health expenditure was over $7 million. There is no easy solution, and it requires a lifestyle change, and diet is a very important part of this. This study provides one part of the solution useful for individuals and governments. How we use this and implement it into programs needs careful planning," said Hemalatha, Director, National Institute of Nutrition (NIN).
Raj Bhandari, one of the study's authors and a representative on the Indian National Technical Board of Nutrition, noted that additional attention to our health has been accelerated due to Covid-19 and diabetics are even more vulnerable to the virus. "Our diets play a critical role and if we could bring millets back as a major part of our diet, we would not only help in controlling diabetes, but we would also be adding important nutrients to our plate."
According to the International Diabetes Association, diabetes is increasing in all regions of the world. India, China and the US have the highest numbers of people with diabetes. Africa has the largest forecasted increase of 143% from 2019 to 2045, the Middle East and North Africa 96% and South East Asia 74%. The authors urge the diversification of staples with millets to keep diabetes in check, especially across Asia and Africa.
Strengthening the case for returning millets as staples, the study found that millets have a low average glycemic index (GI) of 52.7, about 30% lower glycemic index (GI) than milled rice and refined wheat, and about 14-37 GI points lower compared to maize. All 11 types of millets studied were either low (<55) or medium gi (55-69), gi being an indicator of how much and how soon a food increases blood sugar level. the review concluded that even after boiling, baking and steaming (most common ways of cooking grains) millets had lower gi than rice, wheat and maize.
"Millets are traditional foods consumed in India. Use of locally available millets as dietary diversification coupled with good lifestyle modifications would help reduce not only Type II diabetes but also gestational diabetes.," said study co-author Professor Kowsalya Subramaniam, (Food and Science Nutrition), Registrar at Avinashilingam Institute for Home Science and Higher Education for Women (deemed to be university) in Tamil Nadu.
"The global health crisis of undernutrition and over-nutrition coexisting is a sign that our food systems need fixing. Greater diversity both on-farm and on-plate is the key to transforming food systems. On-farm diversity is a risk mitigating strategy for farmers in the face of climate change while on-plate diversity helps counter lifestyle diseases such as diabetes. Millets are part of the solution to mitigate the challenges associated with malnutrition, human health, natural resource degradation, and climate change. Trans-disciplinary research involving multiple stakeholders is required to create resilient, sustainable and nutritious food systems," said Dr. Jacqueline Hughes, Director General ICRISAT.
This study is first in a series of studies that has been worked on for the last four years as a part of the Smart Food initiative led by ICRISAT that will be progressively released in 2021. Included are systematic reviews with meta-analyses of the impacts of millets on: diabetes, anaemia and iron requirements, cholesterol and cardiovascular diseases and calcium deficiencies as well as a review on zinc levels.
As part of this, ICRISAT and the Institute for Food Nutrition and Health at the University of Reading have formed a strategic partnership to research and promote the Smart Food vision of making our diets healthier, more sustainable on the environment and good for those who produce it," explained Joanna Kane-Potaka, a co-author from ICRISAT and Executive Director of the Smart Food initiative. (agency)
Read More ► From Weight Loss to Strong Bones, Health Benefits of Millets
When you ask people about the most common food in India, they usually respond with wheat, rice and pulses. Food grains are ingrained in our culture, but there are better alternatives. Did you know, humans require more than 20 mineral elements for the body to function properly?
Calcium (Ca), one of the essential macro minerals, is needed in relatively large quantities in the diet to maintain good overall health. There is one ingredient which is not only simple to prepare, but also entails many health benefits Millets.
Prabhu Gandhikumar Co-Founder TABP Snacks and Beverages shares simple ways prepare and use millets :
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Boosts Immunity Level
Millets are high source of antioxidants and therefore are considered as an immunity booster to flush out harmful radicals from the body. It aids your body's detoxification by supplying antioxidants such as quercetin, curcumin, ellagic acid, and other useful catechins, which aid in the elimination of toxins and the neutralization of enzymes in your organs. Thus, preventing variety of health issues.
Aids and Manages Weight Loss in Humans
Millets help you lose weight since they are low in calories and gluten-free. They're high in complex carbohydrates and can help health-conscious people reach their fitness goals easily. Millets also help to lower your cholesterol levels and keep your weight in check.
Helps in Digestion
Millets have a high fiber content, which helps with digestion and prevents constipation, bloating, and acidity. Good digestion avoids digestive complaints which humans generally makes, like gastrointestinal cancer and kidney/liver complaints.
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Reduces Cardiovascular Risks
Millets are high in essential fats, which provide our bodies with their own natural fats. It prevents us from storing excess fat in our bodies, lowering our risk of high cholesterol, paralysis, and other heart problems. Millets contain potassium, which helps to control blood pressure and increase circulation.
Millets Fight Back Type-2 Diabetes
Millets, as you might have noticed, are high in magnesium, a mineral that is critical for starch digestion. Magnesium is needed for the production of many carbohydrate-digesting enzymes, including those that regulate insulin action. Researchers discovered that eating magnesium-rich whole grains can help reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes. In addition, it can help to prevent osteoporosis and bone damage.
When embarking on a journey of healthy living or attempting to lose weight, you do not deprive yourself by refusing to eat; rather, you substitute those foods that do not help in weight loss with healthier foods that promote good health. Millets will keep you fit and strong for the rest of your life. It provides a significant amount of nutrients for our human diet. Millets should be a part of your diet for solid, healthy bones!
Read More► Eat according to your Doshas
Renowned cooking expert Sanjeev Kapoor, who is always vocal for local food, says coarse grains like kodo, ragi, jowar are more beneficial for health than polished grains so the menu at five-star hotels also includes millets.
Kapoor, who is also the Onboard Chef at Tata Sampann, told that local food is not only beneficial for health but is also delicious so the menu of five-star hotels includes area-specific local foods which are in demand. He said,"We launched a khichdi with Tata Sampann in which we included a lot of millets and spices along with lentil rice and there is a lot of demand for it."
Kapoor, who considers homemade food important, said it would be a better prospect if pizzas, burgers and other continental foods were prepared at home.
People's increasing interest in foods containing coarse grains is undoubtedly beneficial for health as scientists have found they contain lot of rich micronutrients.
However, scientists from the National Institute of Nutrition (NIN) under the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) say that a limited amount of coarse grains should be included in the diet.
Dr Subba Rao M. Gavaravarapu, scientist at NIN, Hyderabad and Chief of Nutrition Information and Communication division, said at present, the market offers only coarse grains except all other grains which is not good because maintaining diversity in food is important.
"NIN says that a person must have food which provides 2,000 calories a day, which includes nearly 270 grams of grains in it. It is good to take 40 to 50 per cent or 120 to 130 gram coarse grains. The rest of the grains we have been eating since childhood must be included in the diet," Dr Subba Rao added.
Micronutrients and fibre, he said, are found in coarse grains so it is beneficial to include them in food for daily intake but eating only coarse grains is not recommended.
September was celebrated as the 'Nutrition Month'. A special programme "Local Diet With Proper Nutrition" highlighted the importance of local food. Food experts described the consumption of seasonal crops grown in different parts of the country as more beneficial. In this event organised by NIN and Tata Sampann, Director of the National Institute of Nutrition Dr R. Hemlata said there is need to talk openly about the local food items. (Agency)