benefits in regular consumption of quinoa

Regular consumption of quinoa can help prevent the onset of type 2 diabetes, according to a study by the Open University of Catalonia (UOC) and the Instituto de Investigaciones Biomédicas August Pi y Sunyer (IDIBAPS), and published in free access in the magazine Nutrients (1).

Concretely, the substitution of cereal consumption with quinoa attenuates the peaks of glycemia after meals, and the peaks of glycemia after meals are decisive in the evolution of type 2 diabetes.

Quinoa, a pseudo-cereal of Andean origin, has a high nutritional value. It is very rich in B vitamins and vitamins E and C, as well as minerals such as calcium, iron or magnesium. It is also a good source of complex carbohydrates and fibre, and contains a high concentration of protein with all the essential amino acids, which must be incorporated into the diet.

Because of this nutritional value, it had been hypothesized that quinoa consumption could have a favorable impact on certain cardiovascular diseases and other metabolic diseases, such as type 2 diabetes. However, no No scientific study has been done to support these supposed health benefits.

Some recent mouse studies had shown that polyphenols, a type of micronutrient found in quinoa, may have a positive effect on lowering blood sugar. And type 2 diabetes is characterized precisely by an increase in blood sugar after consumption of foods rich in carbohydrates, due to the absence of production or detection of insulin secreted by the pancreas.

For this reason, UOC Health Sciences Studies Professor Diana Díaz Rizzolo and her team wanted to see what would happen if they eliminated other carbohydrate-rich foods from the diet capable of cause a faster increase in the concentration of glucose in the blood and replaced them with quinoa and foods based on this pseudo-cereal. They wanted to see if this substitution could have a positive impact on preventing type 2 diabetes in people at high risk of developing the disease.

As they recall, type 2 diabetes is preceded by an earlier condition called prediabetes, in which, if steps are taken, the disease can still be prevented. “70% of people who are in a prediabetic state will develop the disease. Moreover, this conversion rate increases in the elderly. Thus, the sum of the prediabetic state and aging considerably increases the risk of developing the disease”, emphasizes Dr. Díaz Rizzolo.

Age, a risk factor for developing type 2 diabetes

The researchers recruited people over the age of 65 with prediabetes. Age is itself a risk factor for developing the disease, which can begin silently ten years before diagnosis.

For a month, the researchers followed the volunteers: they placed a continuous glucose monitoring sensor that quantified the value of blood glucose every minute of the day, and asked them to record what they ate. This way, they could see how blood sugar fluctuated after each meal.

After a month, they replaced foods high in complex carbohydrates (such as cereals, legumes, tubers and pasta) with quinoa and foods made from this pseudo-cereal. To do this, they worked with the Alícia Foundation, which developed new quinoa flour products that were very similar to the foods the study volunteers were already eating, such as breads, rolls, pasta, crackers and sticks. So, for a month, they recorded the blood sugar fluctuations of the volunteers throughout the day.

“We compared the blood sugar patterns and we saw that when the participants ate quinoa, the blood sugar spike was lower than with the usual diet,” summarizes the UOC researcher. “This is crucial, because these spikes in blood sugar after eating are decisive in the development of type 2 diabetes,” he adds.

Researchers have also found that eating quinoa helps control blood lipid levels, which is why they believe it may be helpful in controlling high cholesterol and other heart risk factors.

“Quinoa is high in unsaturated fats, antioxidants and polyphenols, with clear cardiovascular benefits,” says Díaz Rizzolo. This pseudocereal also has high levels of betaine, a compound capable of controlling homocysteine ​​levels and preventing the onset of coronary heart disease.

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