Objective: To compare the effect of a diet supplemented with chickpeas to a wheat-based diet of similar fibre content on serum lipids, glucose tolerance, satiety and bowel function. A third, lower-fibre wheat diet provided further information on dietary fibre quantity and bowel function and satiety.
Method: Twenty-seven free-living adults followed two randomized, crossover dietary interventions each of five weeks duration. The chickpea diet included canned drained chickpeas, bread and shortbread biscuits containing 30% chickpea flour. The wheat diet included high-fibre wheat breakfast cereals and wholemeal bread. The diets were isoenergetic to the participants' usual diet, matched for macronutrient content and controlled for dietary fibre. Following on from the second randomised intervention, a sub-group of 18 participants underwent a third, isoenergetic lower-fibre wheat diet that included low-fibre breakfast cereals and bread.
Results: Repeated measures ANOVA revealed reductions in serum TC of 0.25 mmol/L (p < 0.01) and LDL-C of 0.20 mmol/L (p = 0.02) following the chickpea diet compared to the wheat. An unintended significant increase in PUFA and corresponding decrease in MUFA consumption occurred during the chickpea diet and statistical adjustment for this reduced but did not eliminate the effect on serum lipids. There was no significant difference in glucose tolerance. Perceived general bowel health improved significantly during the chickpea diet although there was considerable individual variation. Some participants reported greater satiety during the chickpea diet.
Conclusions: The small but significant decrease in serum TC and LDL-C during the chickpea diet compared to the equivalent fibre wheat diet was partly due to unintentional changes in macronutrient intake occurring because of chickpea ingestion. If dietary energy and macronutrients were not controlled, chickpea consumption might result in greater benefits via influence on these factors.