In a new study from the University of Reading, researchers found that eating millets can reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes and helps manage blood sugar in people with diabetes.
They found that diabetic people who consumed millet as part of their daily diet saw their blood glucose levels drop 12–15% (fasting and post-meal), and blood glucose levels went from diabetic to pre-diabetes levels.
The HbA1c (blood glucose bound to hemoglobin) levels lowered on average 17% 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.
In the study, the team reviewed 80 published papers on humans of which 65 were eligible for a meta-analysis involving about 1,000 human participants, making this analysis the largest systematic review on the topic to date.
Millets, including sorghum, were consumed as staple cereals in many parts of the world until half a century ago.
Investments in a few crops such as rice, wheat and maize, have edged nutritious and climate-smart crops like millets out of the plate.
The team says awareness of this ancient grain is just starting to spread globally, and this review shows millets having a promising role in managing and preventing type 2 diabetes.
They found that millets outperform their comparison crops with lower GI and lower blood glucose levels in participants.
According to the International Diabetes Association, diabetes is increasing in all regions of the world. India, China and the U.S. have the highest numbers of people with diabetes.
Africa has the largest forecasted increase of 143% from 2019 to 2045, the Middle East and North Africa 96% and South East Asia 74%.
The authors urge the diversification of staples with millets to keep diabetes in check, especially across Asia and Africa.
Strengthening the case for reintroducing millets as staples, the study found that millets have a low average glycemic index (GI) of 52.7, about 36% lower GI than milled rice and refined wheat, and about 14-37 GI points lower compared to maize.
All 11 types of millets studied could be defined as either low (<55) or medium (55-69) GI, with the GI as an indicator of how much and how soon a food increases blood sugar level.
The review concluded that even after boiling, baking and steaming (the most common way of cooking grains) millets had a lower GI than rice, wheat and maize.
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The study is published in Frontiers in Nutrition. One author of the study is Dr. S. Anitha.
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