The answer to weight loss doesn’t lie in a can of beans

    31 March 2016

    A daily serving of pulses could be an effective way to lose weight, according to research published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

    The study, by Dr Russell de Souza, a researcher with St Michael’s Hospital in Canada, suggests that eating 130 grams of beans, peas, chickpeas or lentils a day can lead to weight loss of three quarters of a pound in a few weeks.

    Its argument, however, is contested (see our expert verdict below).

    The researchers looked at 21 clinical trials involving 940 adult men and women, who lost an average of 0.75 pounds over six weeks with the addition of a single serving of pulses to their diet, despite making no particular effort to change their eating habits otherwise.

    This research follows previous work by the hospital, which found that a daily serving of pulses makes people feel more full, meaning that they are less likely to overeat. It was also reported that eating pulses can significantly reduce the presence of ‘bad cholesterol’ by five per cent, thereby lowering the risk of cardiovascular disease.

    Dr de Souza said: ‘Despite their known health benefits, only 13 per cent of Canadians eat pulses on any given day and most do not eat the full serving. So there is room for most of us to incorporate dietary pulses in our diet and realise potential weight management benefits.

    ‘This new study fits well with our previous work, which found that pulses increased the feeling of fullness by 31 per cent, which may indeed result in less food intake.’

    Instant analysis
    It is not beans, of course, that make you lose weight — it is a calorie deficit. While pulses may help you feel fuller, thus leading to you consuming fewer calories overall, they do not have magic fat-burning properties. They may be a good source of nutrition but they will not undo that pizza or burger you had earlier.

    The average amount of weight loss quoted is 340g in six weeks, which is less than a pound. Most healthy weight loss plans aim for about a pound a week, so although any weight loss is a move in the right direction, this is not going to solve obesity. We need to do more to promote healthy and sustainable ways of managing lifestyle rather than suggesting that the answer lies in a can of beans.
    Research score: 2/5