Podcast transcript

Podcast transcript

Can lupin improve your heart health?

 Dr Regina Belski

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Transcript

Matt Smith

Welcome to a La Trobe University podcast. I'm your host Matt Smith and my guest today is Dr Regina Belski, from the School of Dietetics and Human Nutrition at La Trobe University. Dr Belski has been looking at the ways of addressing obesity problems and in the process, the causes of cardiovascular diseases. Such a method could involve a simple dietary change, such as eating foods containing leaf and grain.

Regina Belski

Cardiovascular disease or now more commonly referred to as cardiovascular diseases, is actually a group of disorder of the heart and blood vessels, and the common diseases that it includes are things like coronary heart disease and cerebrovascular disease, but what many people are not aware of is that it actually also includes conditions such as deep vein thrombosis, and pulmonary embolism. Now, what we do need to be aware of, and I guess one of the biggest problems for us in Australia, is that cardiovascular diseases have been identified as the leading cause of death and disability by the World Health Organisation, and whilst a significant proportion of cardiovascular diseases are considered preventable, their incidence is continuing to rise. So the problem for us is that if we look at the risk factors for cardiovascular disease, there are quite a number of them and they tend to be put into two categories, those that can be changed, so these are things such as weight, blood pressure; and those that can’t be changed, so these are things such as our gender, our age, and our genetic makeup. So while both groups are important, obviously researchers and health practitioners tend to focus on those that can be changed and modified, when they’re trying to fight heart disease.

Matt Smith

So somebody who’s suffering or at risk of cardiovascular diseases, they’d be overweight, they would be of a certain age group. What kind of warning signs are there for something like this?

Regina Belski

Yes, you’re never guaranteed it, but the things that put you at a much higher risk ... so unfortunately being older – it’s something you can’t change, but you are at a higher risk if you’re older. Things that can be modified, certainly weight. Weight is a really, really big one. Overweight individuals are at a much higher risk of developing cardiovascular disease or diseases and obese are higher again. As well as that, individuals with elevated blood pressure or high cholesterol, once again a much higher risk, so if you pair those factors together and unfortunately we tend to find being overweight together with high blood pressure together with sometimes insulin resistance or diabetes, and high cholesterol, well, some would say in the medical field, you’re a ticking time bomb in regards to cardiovascular disease.

Matt Smith

What is the role of the diet and where does your kind of research come in, when trying to prevent cardiovascular diseases?

Regina Belski

Well, as we’ve just discussed, obesity and being overweight has very, very strong links to the development of cardiovascular disease, and it has been shown to be an independent risk factor for cardiovascular disease, which means that in itself, increases your risk of getting cardiovascular disease. The other thing that we do need to consider is that in addition to being an independent risk factor, it also impacts and increases the likelihood of other leading risk factors for cardiovascular disease, such as blood pressure and high cholesterol. Individuals that are overweight are more likely to have high blood pressure, high cholesterol, which then further contributes and increases their risk of cardiovascular disease. So if we consider that, it becomes clear that dietary measures, or any measure that can decrease body weight, is going to be an important one for trying to reduce cardiovascular disease.

Matt Smith

What sort of dietary factors? Is it just specifically about getting the weight down, or is it what you eat can have an effect as well?

Regina Belski

Yes, so it’s a multitude of factors. Certainly for overweight individuals, a diet which contains an appropriate amount of energy, so when we talk about energy, we’re talking about calories and kilojoules, so the energy density of a diet. If it contains an appropriate amount of energy for weight loss, is high in nutrients, low in saturated fat and low in sodium, it does appear to be the most beneficial, so it’s not just one thing in isolation, some people think, oh if I just reduce the salt, or if I just reduce the butter or the red meat, that’s going to prevent it and cure it and stop cardiovascular disease, but it’s a combination of factors and certainly if an individual is overweight, making sure that their diet is appropriate for weight loss in terms of energy is absolutely critical. Certainly if it’s healthier, it’s better, but if they’re not losing weight, then they’re still at an elevated risk. The challenge for us in the health field, and certainly in the nutrition field, is that we know that following a low energy diet can actually be quite difficult, because people can be left feeling really hungry.

The best way is to address that is for people to consume foods that actually fill them up and improve their satiety and satiation and reduce hunger, and what’s really really interesting is that when we look at the research, there are two macro-nutrients that stand out that fill people up more and those are specifically protein and fibre. But the challenge that we tend to face is that increasing both protein and fibre in the diet can be really difficult. Popular low carbohydrate, high protein choices tend to be really low on fibre and vice versa and one approach to try and actually attain both in the diet is to develop functional foods that use ingredients that are high in both protein and fibre.

Matt Smith

You’ve been examining the role that lupin can play in a diet then. What is lupin and how would it help?

Regina Belski

So lupin itself is a legume grain and it’s better known by most people for its beautiful flowers, but also we know it’s used by farmers for returning nitrogen back into the soil between crop rotation cycles, but also as a stock feed. But the beauty of this particular little lupin legume grain is that it can be ground into a flour which contains between 40 to 45% protein, and 25 to 30% fibre, so just naturally without any bizarre modifications, concoctions – it’s naturally exceptionally high in protein and fibre and contains negligible sugar or starch, so it’s minimal available carbohydrate. The most beneficial ingredients in regards to the satiation and satiety and the feeling of fullness that we’ve seen from research, without any of the other negative components. Keeping that in mind, to date it has been relatively commonly used as a minor food ingredient in baked foods, but nothing substantial. It’s really just there I guess to bulk up the food. The interesting thing is that if we can use a significant amount of lupin, in other words, partially replace flour, so let’s say we can replace 40% of standard wheat flour with lupin flour in a food product, it has a huge impact on how much protein and fibre that food then contains.

The research conducted to date and I was involved in a good proportion of this research and running this research, is that these lupin-enriched foods which are naturally high in protein and fibre, may have a significant effect on cardiovascular disease risk factors, and the specific risk factors where the research has shown changes are those relating to blood pressure and insulin sensitivity. Now in terms of a longer term study that I was involved in running, so a twelve month study, whilst we did have a lot of individuals reporting that it definitely made them feel fuller, we didn’t see huge differences in weight, but independent of there not being huge changes in body weight, there was significant reductions in blood pressure and also improvements in insulin sensitivity. Now, both elevated blood pressure and poor insulin sensitivity, or insulin resistance, are risk factors for cardiovascular disease, so it’s really, really important to understand that something as simple as eating a slightly different bread, these individuals had improvements in blood pressure and insulin sensitivity.

Matt Smith

There’s a large range of pastas and breads available with lots of grain, soy, linseed etc. Why isn’t there lupin bread and lupin pasta on the markets? What’s standing in the way of something like that happening?

Regina Belski

Most of the research to date has taken place in Western Australia, and one of the reasons for that is that most of the lupin crops in Australia are grown in Western Australia. But it is really, really key for me to mention that in terms of lupin and lupin availability, that’s not the thing that’s hindering the production, because in Australia we actually produce over 80% of the world’s lupin crop. So there’s certainly enough of it to be able to utilise it, and there’s the right format, but at the moment the majority of it is still being used for stock feed, because to date, we really haven’t known much about its health benefits. Now that we do have this knowledge and certainly there’s been some good quality studies conducted on lupin and we’re seeing this consistent improvement in heart health, there is more and more interest in both lupin itself, but also the food products, and in Western Australia the consumers are actually able to buy in most supermarkets, lupin bread, and they’re also really lucky because as time goes on and the popularity increases, there’s also foods that they can get that have got lupin English muffins, and they can buy lupin biscuits and certainly a lupin pasta. So the frustrating thing for us, living in the eastern states, is that really at this stage, our choice is to go and try and resource lupin flour and bake ourselves, but commercially-available food products are really quite hard to come by in the eastern states. So one of our hopes for the Department of Dietetics and Human Nutrition at La Trobe, is we’re actually currently in discussions with the industry to try and undertake more research on the health benefits of lupin with the hope of increasing its commercial availability here in Victoria. And we’re also hoping to work more closely with those Western Australian institutions that have done the original research, so the University of Western Australia and the Centre for Food and Genetic Medicine, to actually try and really maximise better health outcomes for all Australians.

Matt Smith

So is there any risks associated with using lupin in your cooking?

Regina Belski

Well, as with any food or ingredient, there is always a possibility of someone being allergic to it, or a food allergy. And something to consider in regards to lupin, it is a legume, so anyone that has allergies to other legumes may want to steer clear, especially if they’re serious allergies.

Matt Smith

So, if anyone listening to this podcast at home feels they’re at risk, want to lower their weight, want to live a bit healthier, would you recommend that they maybe try and get some lupin flour and make their own bread?

Regina Belski

Yes, certainly if people are interested in taking I guess a novel approach and giving it a try, and they’re comfortable in the kitchen, it might take some experimenting in regards to how much lupin flour they would use and to make a palatable produce. One of the things to know about lupin is that the lupin bread that we’ve managed to produce, so I was involved in the design of the bread, and believe me, we experimented a lot, because it’s actually a denser loaf. It doesn’t grow as much as a standard loaf, and also it’s quite bright, so it’s a bit more yellow than standard bread, so don’t be surprised. Not quite radioactive yellow, but it certainly is bright. It might take a little bit of experimenting in the kitchen if you’re making your own, so as I said, don’t get frustrated by that. But it’s certainly worth a try. And the idea that something so simple, substituting a different bread into your diet, with all natural ingredients, can have a direct impact on your risk of cardiovascular disease, well, I would say, it’s definitely worth a try.

Matt Smith

That was Dr Regina Belski, a nutritionist at La Trobe University, and that’s all the time we have today for the La Trobe University podcast. If you have any questions, comments or feedback about this podcast, or any other, then send us an email at podcast@latrobe.edu.au.

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