(NaturalNews) A higher legume intake corresponds to a roughly 40 percent lower risk of developing Type 2 diabetes, according to a new study conducted by researchers from Vanderbilt University Medical Center and the Shanghai Cancer Institute and published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
Researchers gave food frequency questionnaires to 64,227 middle-aged Chinese women who had no history of cancer, cardiovascular disease or diabetes. The women were then monitored for an average of 4.6 years.
Women who had a high intake of any kind of legume had a 38 percent lower risk of developing Type 2 diabetes, while women who had a high intake of soy beans specifically had an even greater risk reduction - 47 percent.
There was no reduction in risk observed in those who had a high intake of other soy products, including soy protein.
The researchers acknowledged certain limitations to the current study, such as the fact that food frequency questionnaires are subject to memory and reporting biases. In addition, because the study was conducted only on Chinese women, the results might not generalize to other ethnic groups.
Prior studies have suggested that soy products might help protect against obesity-related health conditions, including Type 2 diabetes. In one, conducted by researchers from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, consumption of soy yogurt was found to help manage both Type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure. The researchers found that soy yogurt helped reduce the activity of an enzyme connected to the constriction of blood vessels by 92 percent.
Approximately 19 million people in the European Union and more than 20 million in the United States suffer from Type 2 diabetes, amounting to 4 and 7 percent of the population, respectively. According to the American Diabetes Association, another 6.2 million diabetics in the United States are undiagnosed, and 41 million additional people are prediabetic.