A potato or bean-based diet can help with weight loss.

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Certain types of diets can affect insulin resistance and weight loss outcomes for people with diabetes. Design by MNT; Photography by Jenny Detrick/Getty Images and Elizabeth Fernandez/Getty Images
  • Type 2 diabetes is a chronic disorder influenced by diet and other lifestyle factors.
  • People with diabetes can work with dietitians and other specialists to develop diverse and nutritious meal plans.
  • One food that nutritionists may ask people with diabetes to initially avoid or cut back on is high-carbohydrate foods such as potatoes.
  • Data from a recent study, however, found that low-energy bean and potato diets may be effective in helping to reduce insulin resistance and promote weight loss.

Diet is an essential component of health, particularly for people with diabetes or who are at increased risk of developing diabetes. Researchers are constantly examining how food choices can impact people in this demographic.

A recent study published in Medical Food Magazine explores how the potato and bean diets can help people who are insulin resistant.

Researchers found that participants who consumed a diet high in beans and potatoes experienced weight loss and reduced insulin resistance.

It is important to note that the study received funding from the Alliance for Potato Research and Education.

Type 2 diabetes (T2D) is a chronic condition in which the body does not respond to insulin normally. Insulin is a critical component that allows the body’s cells to use glucose for energy.

People at risk for diabetes and people with type 2 diabetes can follow eating plans that help them manage their diabetes and improve their physical well-being. Each person will have slightly different needs, but organizations like Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) offer some general recommendations.

For example, some people with type 2 diabetes must limit carbohydrates and increase their intake of non-starchy vegetables. Starchy vegetables like beans and potatoes contain carbohydrates, but that doesn’t mean people with diabetes or insulin resistance should cut them out completely.

Registered Dietitian Dietitian Yelena Wheeler, who was not involved in the study, explained the MNT🇧🇷

“Potatoes and beans are not innately ‘bad foods’ when it comes to glucose control. However, the preparations of these foods may determine how beneficial or harmful these foods may be for glucose control.”

“Also, not all potatoes are created equal. Roasted unpeeled sweet potatoes and yams can indeed be great additions to a well-balanced diet as they provide their high fiber content,” she said.

“The fiber content contributes to satiety and blood sugar control. This, in turn, can diminish a person with [type 2 diabetes] insulin dependency and therefore may also improve weight maintenance and even weight loss,” explained Wheeler.

This particular study was a randomized food equivalence trial. It included 36 adult participants with insulin resistance.

The researchers compared two diets: one rich in potatoes and the other in legumes (beans and peas) and the impact of the diets on blood glucose control. Participants were on one of two controlled diets for eight weeks with regular follow-up.

Kristian Morey, a registered dietitian and clinical nutritionist in the Nutrition and Diabetes Education program at Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore, who was also not involved in the study, noted MNT🇧🇷

“An interesting detail they mention in the study is that they cooked and cooled the potatoes before serving them to the participants. This process may cause some of the starch contained in the potato to be digested more slowly than before, and this may improve insulin sensitivity and glucose tolerance when consuming this type of food.”

“It is also important to note that they consumed other foods – such as protein foods – with the potatoes, which may also improve the glycemic response,” she added.

Overall, the researchers found that participants on both diets did not see a significant drop in blood glucose levels. However, both groups experienced weight loss and reduced insulin resistance.

Amy Kimberlain, a registered dietitian nutritionist and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Media, who was not involved in the study, said MNT:

“This study helped to show that using foods that reduce dietary energy density not only allows for a better insulin response, but also helps to promote weight loss.”

“Moreover, this study helps continue the conversation that we can improve different risk factors in people by making changes to our diets (eating patterns) but still continuing to eat foods we enjoy.”
— Amy Kimberlain

The study had several limitations. First, it included a small sample size so that future studies can include more participants. Most participants were female, indicating that more diverse follow-up may also be needed.

The study also only lasted eight weeks, so more long-term studies are needed to look at long-term results.

The researchers noted that differences between participants’ baseline Body Mass Index (BMI) and fasting insulin levels affected the study results. There were also some difficulties in completing the study due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Kimberlain also noted that researchers had tight control over food preparation, but that translating this into real-life practice could be more difficult.

“These meals were prepared for people in a metabolic kitchen, meaning the ability to confirm what people were eating (calories/content/etc.) was there. And while this is a study and they used this to be able to confirm intake, to verify and/or see if this is effective long term with people, it would be important for people to be able to do this on their own (after receiving instructions on how to prepare the example meals they received),” she said.

Overall, the study demonstrates that food preparation and choices are essential components of diabetes management. More research is needed to confirm how starchy vegetables like beans and potatoes can contribute to healthy diets for people at risk of type 2 diabetes.

A potato or bean-based diet can help with weight loss.

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