Objective: The aim of the present study was to systematically review and perform a meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies exploring the association between dietary legume consumption and CVD risk, including CHD and stroke.
Design: The PubMed and EMBASE databases were searched up to December 2015. A meta-analysis of the highest v. lowest (reference) category of dietary legume consumption was performed through random-effects models.
Results: Fourteen studies conducted on eleven cohorts and accounting for a total of 367 000 individuals and 18 475 cases of CVD (7451 CHD and 6336 stroke cases) were considered for the analyses. Compared with lower legume consumption, the highest category of exposure was associated with a decreased risk of 10 % in both CVD and CHD (relative risk=0·90; 95 % CI 0·84, 0·97) with no or little evidence of heterogeneity and no publication bias. Null results were found regarding legume consumption and stroke risk. No substantial confounding factors were evident in stratified analyses.
Conclusions: Legume consumption was associated with lower risk of CVD. Legumes' intrinsic characteristics, because they are often part of an overall healthy diet, or because they are a substitute for unhealthy sources of protein may potentially explain the current findings.
Keywords: CVD; Fibre; Legumes; Meta-analysis; Mortality.