With dietary practices increasingly linked to lifestyle diseases, here is some news to cheer about for diabetics. Scientists from the Indian Institute of Chemical Technology have found that unprocessed raw horse gram seeds not only possess anti-hyperglycemic properties but also have qualities which reduce insulin resistance.

The scientists made a comparative analysis between horse gram seeds and their sprouts and found that the seeds would have greater beneficial effects on the health of hyperglycemic individuals. Dr. Ashok Kumar Tiwari, Principal Scientist and lead author of the study said increased consumption of highly processed foods was contributing to spiked levels of blood glucose and lipid levels. He said South Asians consume more carbohydrates, and the introduction of polished white rice has contributed to increased levels of blood sugar among them.

Quoting an earlier study carried out at IICT, he said it was noticed that brown rice or pounded rice was less glycemic than polished rice. He said that persistent hyperglycemia induces oxidative stress which in turn generates free radicals. These free radicals damage bio-molecules leading to imbalance in physiological functions and development of diabetic complications. Describing horse gram (Ulavalu in Telugu, Kulthi in Hindi, Kollu in Tamil) as a poor man's pulse crop in South India, he said it was an anti-oxidant rich food grain. Traditionally different preparations were made with the pulse to suit the requirements of different seasons. For instance, it was given in the winter for generating body heat/warmth and energy.

The authors of the study, which was published recently in Nutrafoods, said: traditional medicinal texts describe its use for asthma, bronchitis, leucoderma, urinary discharge, kidney stones and heart disease.

Dr.Tiwari said the study found that raw horse gram seed was rich in polyphenols, flavonoids and proteins, the major anti-oxidants present in fruits and other food materials.

Anti-oxidants help in controlling oxidative stress by scavenging free radicals. He said the study found that raw horse gram seed has the ability to reduce post-prandial hyperglycemia by slowing down carbohydrate digestion and reduce insulin resistance by inhibiting protein-tyrosine phosphatase 1 beta enzyme.

He said that of late a belief has gained ground that eating sprouts of horse gram would be beneficial for health. However, the study found that during sprouting its anti-diabetic medicinal property gets reduced.

He said the majority of anti-oxidant properties were confined to the seed coat and its removal would not do any good. “Any preparation made of whole grain is better than sprouts or horse gram pulses”, he added.