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A Global Pulse

The following article was written by Dr

Kevin Moran, and originally appeared on on 18 January 2016.

'Not before time, 2016 has been called

'the international year of pulses' by the

United Nations (UN) placing a strong

focus on this under-valued but very

diverse group of crops, comprising mainly

beans and peas, in achieving future food

and nutrition security.

'It is a sad but real irony that during

the Green Revolution, in the second half

of the 20th century, production of pulse

crops declined greatly as that of common

cereal grains, such as wheat, maize

and rice, increased enormously. And, as

pulses usually contain about twice as

much protein, minerals, micronutrients

and fibre than the common cereal grains,

this transition has contributed significantly

to the increasing global occurrence of

deficiencies in these essential dietary


Therefore bringing more pulses

back into diets will contribute greatly

to reducing the incidence of protein,

mineral and micronutrient deficiencies,

particularly in developing countries.

Furthermore the potential role of pulses in

increasing the intake of fibre in Western

life-style diets should now receive more

attention following the recent publication

of research work by Sonnenburg et al

(Nature Vol 529 p. 212-215).

Their ground-breaking research has

shown that the diversity of beneficial

human gut microbes is decreasing in

Western populations compared to those

present in populations living traditional

life-styles - and without inclusion of

more fibre in the Western-style diets then

these beneficial microbes may, in future

generations, become extinct!

Increasing awareness

The importance of fibre in maintaining the

diversity of beneficial gut microbes arises

from its high content of 'microbial available

carbohydrates' or MAC's which are

usually low in many Western diets (high in

fat; simple carbohydrates like sugars; low

in fibre) compared to traditional (typically

rural agrarian) diets.

The beneficial microbes feed on the

MAC's to produce short-chain fatty acids

(SCFA's) and research has shown that a

lack of these may lead to disruption of the

immune and anti-inflammatory systems

which underlie diseases such as diabetes,

heart disease, asthma, allergies and

inflammatory bowel and might explain

some of their increasing occurrence in

young Westerners!

This study adds further support for

the UN's initiative to increase awareness,

production and consumption of

pulses starting now in their designated

international year.

"The evidence is irrefutable that pulses

have a key role in improving human

health mainly through their contribution

of protein, minerals and micronutrients

in developing countries; and boosting

dietary fibre (and MAC intake) in

Western diets" says Dr Kevin Moran of

Kemnovation. "Finally this also illustrates

the importance of introducing a broader

diversity of food crop types into diets to

help achieve food and nutrition security

for a growing planet."


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