Legume consumption and risk of coronary heart disease in US men and women: NHANES I Epidemiologic Follow-up Study

Arch Intern Med. 2001 Nov 26;161(21):2573-8. doi: 10.1001/archinte.161.21.2573.


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.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Cohort Studies
  • Coronary Disease / epidemiology*
  • Diet / statistics & numerical data*
  • Diet Surveys
  • Fabaceae*
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • Nutrition Surveys*
  • Proportional Hazards Models
  • Prospective Studies
  • Risk Assessment / statistics & numerical data
  • Sex Distribution
  • United States / epidemiology