Over the course of a year, working with the Centre for Food and Genomic Medicine in Perth, the researchers monitored more than 100 overweight, but otherwise healthy, Western Australian men and women to whom they provided everyday foods made either with wholemeal flour or incorporating lupin flour.
“Consuming lupin flour lowered blood pressure and reduced the risk of heart disease,” Dr Belski said. “It’s as simple as that.”
Her work is being presented for the first time in public through Fresh Science, a communication boot-camp for early career scientists held at the Melbourne Museum. Dr Belski was one of 16 winners from across Australia.
Lupins are legumes often grown ornamentally in gardens for their flowers, but their beans have been eaten since Roman times. About 80 per cent of the world’s commercial lupin crop is produced in Western Australia where it conditions the soil and is sold for livestock feed.
Dr Belski said there had been renewed interest in using lupin flour in regular foods, because of its unique high protein, high fibre composition and its ability to be incorporated easily into typical food products such as bread. But the West Australian Country Womens’ Association produced a cookbook of recipes using lupin flour decades ago.
Those taking part in the study were put on a weight loss diet and split into two groups. For a year, one group ate food incorporating the 40 per cent lupin flour, and the other foods made solely with wholemeal flour. During the course of the experiment, Dr Belski and her team monitored heart disease risk factors, including blood pressure, and the level of fats, sugar and insulin in the blood.
The food provided to participants during the study included bread, pasta and biscuits. The researchers found that while both the lupin group and the wholemeal group lost similar amounts of weight, the lupin group displayed bigger improvements in several heart disease risk factors.
“So simply consuming foods incorporating lupin flour can improve heart health in overweight people at higher risk of heart disease,” Dr Belski said.
The study suggested that lupin flour might also be good for those suffering from Type 2 or adult onset diabetes, because even non-diabetic individuals’ sensitivity to insulin improved during the trial.
Dr Belski said commercial food manufacturers in WA had already begun making and selling products which incorporate lupin flour.
Fresh Science is a national program sponsored by the Australian Government.
Dr Belski’s publication, “Effects of lupin-enriched foods on body composition and cardiovascular disease risk factors: a 12-month randomized controlled weight loss trial” is published in the International Journal of Obesity, 2010.
Dr Regina Belski (+61 4) 33 322 540
Sarah Brooker (Fresh Science) (+61 4) 13 332 489
Niall Byrne (Fresh Science) (+61 4) 17 131 977
Sally-Ann Jones (UWA Public Affairs) (+61 8) 6488 7975 / (+61 4) 20 790 098