Study shows millets can reduce risk of developing heart disease

PTI, Aug 23, 2021, 9:54 AM IST

The consumption of millets can reduce total cholesterol, triacylglycerols (commonly known as triglycerides) and BMI, according to a new study analyzing the data of 19 studies with nearly 900 people. The study was undertaken by five organizations and led by the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) in Hyderabad.

The results, published in Frontiers in Nutrition, brings critically needed scientific backing to the efforts to popularise millets to combat the growing prevalence of obesity and being overweight in children, adolescents, and adults, ICRISAT said in a release here on Wednesday. The study showed that consuming millets reduced total cholesterol by eight percent, 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 the 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 five percent.  “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 analyzed their data to test the significance of the impact.  “We used a meta-analysis, and results came out very strongly to show a significant positive impact on risk factors for cardiovascular disease,” said S Anitha, the study’s lead author, and senior nutritionist at ICRISAT.

The study also showed that consuming millets reduced BMI by seven per cent in people who were overweight and obese, showing the possibility of returning to a normal BMI. 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, the release said. These findings are influenced by comparisons that show that millets are much higher in unsaturated fatty acids, with two 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,” Hemalatha, Director, National Institute of Nutrition (NIN), Hyderabad said.

“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,” the release quoted Hemalatha as saying. “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,” said Jacqueline Hughes, Director General, ICRISAT.

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, the release said. 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, it said.


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