Regular Millet Consumption May Help Manage Diabetes… and Prevent It

With studies finding that fewer people with diabetes are successfully managing their blood sugar, people may be interested in more ways to maintain healthy levels. If new research is anything to go by, eating a certain type of food may prove helpful.

A study recently published in Frontiers in Nutrition found that eating millets provided blood sugar benefits for both people already living with diabetes and those with prediabetes. Scientists say this shows millets could be helpful both in diabetic meal planning and as a preventative aid.

PHOTO: PIXABAY/MARTIN HETTO

Professor Ian Givens, study co-author and Director at University of Reading’s Institute of Food, Nutrition and Health (IFNH), says, “Awareness of this ancient grain is just starting to spread globally, and our review shows millets having a promising role in managing and preventing type 2 diabetes. In the largest review and analysis of research into different types of millet compared to other grains such as refined rice, maize and wheat we found that millets outperform their comparison crops with lower GI and lower blood glucose levels in participants.”

Researchers looked at 80 published studies from 11 different countries to see how daily consumption of millet impacted people. They found that for those with diabetes, their fasting and post-meal blood glucose levels dropped between 12 and 15%, pushing them back to the prediabetic range. Meanwhile, HbA1c numbers lowered an average 17% for people with prediabetes. That sent them back to a normal status.

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The researchers say the amount of data involved in their study proves how beneficial millets can be.

Dr. S. Anitha, lead author and Senior Nutrition Scientist at the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT), explains, “No one knew there were so many scientific studies undertaken on millets’ effect on diabetes and these benefits were often contested. This systematic review of the studies published in scientific journals has proven that millets can keep blood glucose levels in check and reduce the risk of diabetes. It has also shown just how well these smart foods do it.”

PHOTO: PIXABAY/M W

The foods provide these benefits along with a low average glycemic index score. Researchers say that score is 52.7, roughly 36% lower than milled rice and refined wheat. It’s also between 14 and 37 GI points lower than maize. All of the millets involved in the study were either low or medium GI. Regardless of how they were prepared, their score was lower than rice, wheat, and maize.

There aren’t just health benefits involved in choosing these foods, however. It’s also good for the environment.

Dr. Jacqueline Hughes, Director General at ICRISAT, explains, “The global health crisis of undernutrition and over-nutrition coexisting is a sign that our food systems need fixing. Greater diversity both on-farm and on-plate is the key to transforming food systems. On-farm diversity is a risk mitigating strategy for farmers in the face of climate change while on-plate diversity helps counter lifestyle diseases such as diabetes. Millets are part of the solution to mitigate the challenges associated with malnutrition, human health, natural resource degradation, and climate change.”

Looking for a drink to pair with that millet? Another study has shown that camel milk may be helpful in managing diabetes. You can read more on that here.

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