A millet-based diet helps manage blood glucose levels

V Rishi Kumar Hyderabad | Updated on July 29, 2021

A study shows the diabetic people who consumed millets as part of their daily diet saw their blood glucose levels drop 12-15 per cent.

A new study has shown that eating millets reduces developing type 2 diabetes and helps manage blood glucose levels.

It indicates the potential to design appropriate meals with millets for diabetic and pre-diabetic people as well as for non-diabetic people as a preventive approach.

Watch this: Millets: India's solution to tackle climate change & hunger

Drawing on research from 11 countries, the study published in Frontiers in Nutrition shows that diabetic people who consumed millets as part of their daily diet saw their blood glucose levels drop 12-15 per cent (fasting and post-meal). Blood glucose levels went from diabetic to pre-diabetes levels. The HbA1c (blood glucose bound to haemoglobin) levels lowered on average 17 per cent for pre-diabetic individuals, and the levels went from pre-diabetic to normal status. These findings affirm that eating millets can lead to a better glycemic response.

The authors reviewed 80 published studies, of which 65 were eligible for a meta-analysis involving about 1,000 human subjects, making this analysis the largest systematic review on the topic to date.

“No one knew there were so many scientific studies undertaken on millets’ effect on diabetes. These benefits were often contested, and this systematic review of the studies published in scientific journals has proven that millets keep blood glucose levels in check, reducing the risk of diabetes, and has shown just how well these smart foods do it,” said Dr S Anitha, the study’s lead author and a Senior Nutrition Scientist at ICRISAT.

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Dr Hemalatha, Director, National Institute of Nutrition, said, “Diabetes contributed to very high disease burden from 1990-2016 in India. There is no easy solution, and it requires a lifestyle change, and diet is a very important part of this. This study provides one part of the solution useful for individuals and governments. How we use this and implement it into programs needs careful planning.”

According to the International Diabetes Association, diabetes is increasing in all regions of the world. India, China and the USA have the highest numbers of people with diabetes.

The authors urge the diversification of staples with millets to keep diabetes in check, especially across Asia and Africa.

“Millets are part of the solution to mitigate the challenges associated with malnutrition, human health, natural resource degradation, and climate change. Trans-disciplinary research involving multiple stakeholders is required to create resilient, sustainable and nutritious food systems,” said Dr Jacqueline Hughes, Director General ICRISAT.

This study is the first in a series of studies that have been worked on for the last four years as a part of the Smart Food initiative led by ICRISAT that will be progressively released in 2021.

Published on July 29, 2021

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