Background: It is postulated that a diet high in legumes may be beneficial in preventing diabetes. However, little empirical evidence on this association exists in developing countries. We aimed to examine the association between legume intake and self-reported diabetes status in adult men and women in India.
Methods: The analysis is based on a population-based cross sectional study of 99,574 women and 56,742 men aged 20-49 years included in India's third National Family Health Survey conducted in 2005-06. Association of legume intake, determined by the frequency of consumption of pulses and beans (daily, weekly and occasionally or never), with the reported prevalence of diabetes were estimated using multiple logistic regression after adjusting for frequency of consumption of other food items, BMI status, tobacco smoking, alcohol drinking, watching television, age, education, living standard of the household, residence and geographic regions.
Results: Daily (OR: 0.71; 95% CI: 0.59-0.87; p=0.001) and weekly (OR: 0.66; 95% CI: 0.54-0.80; p<0.001) legumes intake were associated with a significantly reduced prevalence of diabetes among adult Indian women even after controlling for the effects of potentially confounding factors, whereas non-significant inverse associations were observed in men.
Conclusion: Daily or weekly intake of legumes was inversely associated with presence of diabetes in the Indian population. However, this is an observational finding and uncontrolled confounding cannot be excluded as an explanation for the association. More epidemiological research with better measures of legumes intake and clinical measures of diabetes is needed to clarify this relationship.