Associations of Total Legume, Pulse, and Soy Consumption with Incident Type 2 Diabetes: Federated Meta-Analysis of 27 Studies from Diverse World Regions

J Nutr. 2021 May 11;151(5):1231-1240. doi: 10.1093/jn/nxaa447.


Background: The consumption of legumes is promoted as part of a healthy diet in many countries but associations of total and types of legume consumption with type 2 diabetes (T2D) are not well established. Analyses across diverse populations are lacking despite the availability of unpublished legume consumption data in prospective cohort studies.

Objective: To examine the prospective associations of total and types of legume intake with the risk of incident T2D.

Methods: Meta-analyses of associations between total legume, pulse, and soy consumption and T2D were conducted using a federated approach without physical data-pooling. Prospective cohorts were included if legume exposure and T2D outcome data were available and the cohort investigators agreed to participate. We estimated incidence rate ratios (IRRs) and CIs of associations using individual participant data including ≤42,473 incident cases among 807,785 adults without diabetes in 27 cohorts across the Americas, Eastern Mediterranean, Europe, and Western Pacific. Random-effects meta-analysis was used to combine effect estimates and estimate heterogeneity.

Results: Median total legume intake ranged from 0-140 g/d across cohorts. We observed a weak positive association between total legume consumption and T2D (IRR = 1.02, 95% CI: 1.01 to 1.04) per 20 g/d higher intake, with moderately high heterogeneity (I2 = 74%). Analysis by region showed no evidence of associations in the Americas, Eastern Mediterranean, and Western Pacific. The positive association in Europe (IRR = 1.05, 95% CI: 1.01 to 1.10, I2 = 82%) was mainly driven by studies from Germany, UK, and Sweden. No evidence of associations was observed for the consumption of pulses or soy.

Conclusions: These findings suggest no evidence of an association of legume intakes with T2D in several world regions. The positive association observed in some European studies warrants further investigation relating to overall dietary contexts in which legumes are consumed, including accompanying foods which may be positively associated with T2D.

Keywords: bean; chickpea; diabetes; legumes; lentil; pea; peanut; pulse; soy.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Intramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Cohort Studies
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2*
  • Diet*
  • Fabaceae*
  • Global Health*
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Risk Factors
  • Soybean Proteins*


  • Soybean Proteins