Background: Evidence from controlled trials encourages the intake of dietary pulses (beans, chickpeas, lentils and peas) as a method of improving dyslipidemia, but heart health guidelines have stopped short of ascribing specific benefits to this type of intervention or have graded the beneficial evidence as low. We conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials (RCTs) to assess the effect of dietary pulse intake on established therapeutic lipid targets for cardiovascular risk reduction.
Methods: We searched electronic databases and bibliographies of selected trials for relevant articles published through Feb. 5, 2014. We included RCTs of at least 3 weeks' duration that compared a diet emphasizing dietary pulse intake with an isocaloric diet that did not include dietary pulses. The lipid targets investigated were low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, apolipoprotein B and non-high-density lipoprotein (non-HDL) cholesterol. We pooled data using a random-effects model.
Results: We identified 26 RCTs (n = 1037) that satisfied the inclusion criteria. Diets emphasizing dietary pulse intake at a median dose of 130 g/d (about 1 serving daily) significantly lowered LDL cholesterol levels compared with the control diets (mean difference -0.17 mmol/L, 95% confidence interval -0.25 to -0.09 mmol/L). Treatment effects on apolipoprotein B and non-HDL cholesterol were not observed.
Interpretation: Our findings suggest that dietary pulse intake significantly reduces LDL cholesterol levels. Trials of longer duration and higher quality are needed to verify these results.
Trial registration: ClinicalTrials.gov, no. NCT01594567.