ASU researchers find pinto beans may lower cholesterol more than oatmeal

August 24, 2007

MESA, Ariz. - Esther Martinez has eaten pinto beans most of her life and admits her family used to use lard when they prepared refried beans. “Now, I eat pinto beans boiled with fresh tomato, whole onion and green chiles or refry them with cheese in canola oil,” said Martinez.

Little did she know that eating pinto beans, prepared without lard, may help lower her cholesterol level, even more so than eating the same serving size of a half cup of oatmeal, according to research conducted by Arizona State University Nutrition scientists. Download Full Image

When Martinez learned that her cholesterol was getting close to 200, though, and was pre-diabetic in 2005, she knew she had to do something to lose weight to address the threat of diabetes or heart disease before it was too late.

As an office specialist senior at Arizona State University’s Polytechnic campus, she saw the bean study as an opportunity to improve her health. Donna Winham, ASU assistant professor of nutrition, was looking for subjects who met certain criteria, such as having higher cholesterol and/or being moderately insulin resistant (pre-diabetic), like Martinez.

“Beans are considered a very affordable, functional, healthy food rich in protein, complex carbohydrates, fiber, minerals and phytochemicals, which are non-nutritive plant chemicals that have protective or disease preventive properties,” said Winham.

In 2005 and 2006, Winham and colleague Andrea Hutchins, with the University of Colorado – Colorado Springs, conducted their 24-week experiment to understand the impact of long-term legume consumption on biomarkers for heart disease and type 2 diabetes risks. In their research they employed canned pinto beans and black-eyed peas and carrots as the placebo. The results of their efforts were published this past summer in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition.

“We chose these beans to study because they are a common legume varieties consumed around the world as part of traditional diets,” said Winham whose research focuses on the use of traditional foods in reducing risk factors for heart disease and type 2 diabetes, and consumer beliefs and attitudes about bean consumption.

The 17 subjects who participated in the nine-month study were asked to eat a half cup of pinto beans, black-eyed peas and carrots every day for eight weeks each. 

“We found that daily pinto bean consumption of a half cup resulted in an average drop of total cholesterol and LDL-cholesterol of more than 8 percent. In contrast, a half cup of oatmeal will reduce cholesterol 2-3 percent,“ said Winham.
Initial results from the study suggested that pinto beans were effective at lowering overall cholesterol levels and the black-eyed peas appeared to have little effect.  However, closer analysis of the data showed that a few participants appeared to be less compliant in eating the black-eyed peas than the pinto beans or carrots.  The researchers hope to retest black-eyed peas for cholesterol reduction.

“The benefit of the study is that it proves that long-term consumption of pinto beans does have a significant impact on lowering the risk of heart disease,” said Winham. “A diet that incorporates beans might be as productive as taking a statin.”

And while pinto beans have been proven to be effective, Winham and Hutchins stress that legume variety is key in the diet.

“Different beans are recognized for achieving different effects on biomarkers, so it’s important to incorporate an assortment into the diet,” said Winham.

The research was funded with a grant of $187,000 by Beans for Health Alliance (BHA) through the U.S">">U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).  Her research is part of a larger project, conducted by the BHA, where several studies are looking at these functional foods for health benefits.

All this research helps people like Martinez. Today, she continues to lose weight and incorporates beans into her diet almost on a daily basis. “I’m not pre-diabetic anymore and my overall cholesterol was at 186 after the study,” Martinez proudly claims, and she did it without medications. For more information or to reach Winham, contact her by e-mail at donna.winham">">

Leading Chinese university to build Decision Theater

August 24, 2007

An eight-person delegation from Huazhong University of Science and Technology (HUST) recently spent two days visiting the Decision Theater. They traveled from Wuhan, China, to see firsthand how the Decision Theater is organized and equipped to help decision-makers address public policy issues.

The HUST delegation received in-depth briefings on the theater’s visualization, simulation and modeling, and collaboration tools. They heard from a variety of experts about everything from strategic planning and project management, to visualization technology and group intelligence software. They also met with two Decision Theater clients representing public and private sectors. Download Full Image

Xu Xiaolin, the delegation leader and HUST’s dean of the College of Public Administration, says he’s impressed with what he saw and heard during the visit. He particularly notes the value of the Decision Theater in helping to address a host of urban growth challenges.

“This enables cities to be managed better,” Xiaolin says. “It offers a more scientific approach to managing a city. It gives more people a voice regardless of where they may live,” referring to the power of digital technology as a planning and participation resource. The dean believes his university will have its version of a Decision Theater up and running within a year. He foresees continued strong collaboration with ASU, saying “the future is beautiful between ASU and HUST.”

Xiaolin says he would like to see the HUST visualization center called the “New Sino-American Decision Theater,” but the name will determined by several people sometime later.

Initial discussions about a HUST Decision Theater began more than a year ago and have included ASU President Michael Crow and other senior ASU officials. Rick Shangraw, the Decision Theater’s executive director and ASU’s vice president for research and economic affairs, visited HUST and other Chinese universities in May. While promoting the Decision Theater concept there, Shangraw saw the university’s preliminary construction plans and the proposed location for their Decision Theater on the campus. Given their ongoing strong interest in building a Decision Theater, Shangraw invited his HUST hosts to visit ASU for additional discussions on how ASU and HUST can collaborate.

The delegation’s visit to ASU concluded with the signing of a joint memorandum of understanding between the Decision Theater and HUST’s College of Public Administration. The program ranks fourth among colleges in China. HUST ranks fifth among all universities in China, and delegation members say the university’s appetite for innovation is a major reason for the recognition.

“This is a prestigious research university with whom we already enjoy a strong friendship,” Shangraw says. “I’m excited about the prospect of collaborating with them through our respective Decision Theaters on issues of mutual interest and concern, such as the environment, urban growth, education and public health. The future is indeed bright.”

John">">John Skinner, (480) 965-4098
Decision Theater