Study shows pinto beans may lower cholesterol more than oatmeal

September 11, 2007

Esther Martinez has eaten pinto beans most of her life, and she 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,” Martinez says. Download Full Image

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 ASU nutrition scientists.

When Martinez learned that her cholesterol was getting close to 200, though, and that she 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 ASU’s Polytechnic campus, she saw the bean study as an opportunity to improve her health. Donna Winham, an ASU assistant professor of nutrition, was looking for subjects who met certain criteria, such as having higher cholesterol 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,” Winham says.

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 used 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 common legume varieties consumed around the world as part of traditional diets,” says 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,” Winham says. “In contrast, a half-cup of oatmeal will reduce cholesterol 2 percent to 3 percent.”

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,” Winham says. “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,” Winham says.

The research was funded with a grant of $187,000 by Beans for Health Alliance (BHA) through the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). Her research is part of a larger project, conducted by the BHA, in which 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">

Language and peace: Book by ASU linguist explores the possibilities

September 11, 2007

In a world that grows smaller by the day and where conflict exists in nearly every corner of the globe, Patricia Friedrich is among an exclusive group of sociolinguists who believe language has the potential to foster closer bonds between communities, countries and continents.

Her book, “Language, Negotiation and Peace: the use of English in conflict resolution,” (Continuum Press, 2007) examines the growth of English as a lingua franca and suggests it can be instrumental in the restoration of peace and in the building of social justice. It is the first book-length treatment of “a provocative universal issue,” according to Brazilian English language educator Francisco Gomes de Matos. Download Full Image

“We all use language to communicate, and English is increasingly the language that is used across cultures for communication purposes,” says Friedrich, an assistant professor in Language, Cultures and History at Arizona State University’s New College of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences. “However, English often times has been seen as the villain, an enemy of linguistic peace because many people associate it with imperialism.

“I wanted to draw a more optimistic picture, one in which we have the responsibility for the uses we make of English. We can choose to engage in pacific and empowering tasks through English, and this is something anyone with a functional command of the language can choose to do.”

Friedrich, whose main research interests are World Englishes and the spread of English throughout the world, notes in her book that since ancient times humans have pursued the ideal that peace could be achieved and maintained if mankind spoke one language. Because of a complex history of spread and power, English has become the lingua franca – a language used for communication purposes among people who otherwise would not speak the same language – impacting international negotiations, commerce, mass communication and education.

Friedrich points to the Biblical story of the Tower of Babel and the Greek myth of Hermes as examples of man’s struggle with a common language and moves it forward to UNESCO’s 1996 “Declaration of Linguistic Rights,” that includes rights recognizing behaviors that guide the use of global languages such as English. She also notes it is not uncommon to find multinational firms holding seminars and training programs to help employees understand how their own cultural and linguistic bias affect the way they see the world; bias may prevent successful communication and harmonious business dealing across regional, linguistic, and cultural boundaries.

The book also explores the late-19th century introduction of artificial languages such as Esperanto and Volapük, as well as the alternation of lingua franca such as Latin, Arabic, French and English. Friedrich notes that choice is a defining factor in language spread. In the case of English, she states, the fact that non-native speakers use the language so often and for so many purposes is decisive for its worldwide spread.

“This pioneering work is clear, insightful, and well organized,” writes Gomes de Matos, a professor at Federal University of Pernambuco in Recife, Brazil, in a recent review in Human Language Teaching magazine. “(Friedrich) makes a courageous case for using language, and specifically English, for peaceful purposes internationally, making the book relevant to those researching and teaching languages, psychology, applied linguistics, and peace studies. With the publication of this book, 2007 becomes a landmark in the still-brief history of English for peaceful purposes.”

Friedrich believes her work will appeal to anyone with an interest in peace.

“This book applies to everyone,” she says. “I believe that we have become used to conflict to a point where we are desensitized to it. I also believe many of us think of peace as a distant concern – something to be dealt with by governments and diplomats – and we forget that we build peace everyday in the ways we respond to one another and engage in small gestures of social justice.

“In my view, a language is an instrument. We can use it for good or for evil. We have to claim ownership and the right to use it no matter who we are and choose to empower through it rather than imperialize.”

Friedrich, who specializes in sociolinguistics, received her Ph.D. in English Linguistics from Purdue. She has been published in journals such as World Englishes, International Journal of Applied Linguistics and English Today.