Background: Soybean protein and dietary fiber supplementation reduce serum cholesterol in randomized controlled trials. Consumption of legumes, which are high in bean protein and water-soluble fiber, may be associated with a reduced risk of coronary heart disease (CHD).
Methods: A total of 9632 men and women who participated in the First National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey Epidemiologic Follow-up Study (NHEFS) and were free of cardiovascular disease (CVD) at their baseline examination were included in this prospective cohort study. Frequency of legume intake was estimated using a 3-month food frequency questionnaire, and incidence of CHD and CVD was obtained from medical records and death certificates.
Results: Over an average of 19 years of follow-up, 1802 incident cases of CHD and 3680 incident cases of CVD were documented. Legume consumption was significantly and inversely associated with risk of CHD (P =.002 for trend) and CVD (P =.02 for trend) after adjustment for established CVD risk factors. Legume consumption 4 times or more per week compared with less than once a week was associated with a 22% lower risk of CHD (relative risk, 0.78; 95% confidence interval, 0.68-0.90) and an 11% lower risk of CVD (relative risk, 0.89; 95% confidence interval, 0.80-0.98).
Conclusions: Our study indicates a significant inverse relationship between legume intake and risk of CHD and suggests that increasing legume intake may be an important part of a dietary approach to the primary prevention of CHD in the general population.