health in a capsule

A Cup of Beans a Day to Keep the Dr Away?: Part 2

Justin PlattBiomedical, Blog

In our previous blog post, we explored some of Dr Henry J. Thompson’s work linking dietary patterns to accelerating or reducing the risk of cancer, cardiovascular disease, type II diabetes and obesity. This week, we’ll look at one of his more unique lifestyle recommendations … 

When it comes to reducing the risk of chronic disease, practical guidance issued by many health practitioners includes:

  • Eating a balanced, plant-rich diet in moderation
  • Maintaining a physically active lifestyle
  • Keeping body weight within a healthy range.

Dr Thompson has another tip to add: consuming at least one half-cup of cooked beans daily; more if possible, even up to 1.5 cups per day. He says that this simple suggestion has an important role to play in personal health, as well as the health of our planet.

Beans: backed by science 

Beans and pulses are staple food crops for many regions of the world, eaten in large quantities as a rich source of protein, starch and dietary fibre. In some regions of the world, the common bean is consumed in quantities of up to 360g dry weight per person per day. In the United States, however, typical consumption is less than 10g per day; and less than 7% of the population eats common beans on any given day.

After examining data from 41 countries, the Nurses Health Study II (NHS II) found a significant inverse relationship between bean consumption and morbidity due to prostate, breast and colon cancer. The intake of common beans (Phaseolus vulgaris L.) and lentils (categorised as pulses), was associated with a reduced risk of breast cancer. From these results, the researchers concluded that further investigation of the effects of pulses on breast cancer was warranted. 

Dr Thompson’s laboratory decided to pursue these observations in a preclinical model for breast cancer. The lab reported a pre-clinical investigation which showed that the incorporation of cooked, canned, freeze-dried common bean powder caused an inhibition of the post-initiation stage of chemically-induced mammary carcinogenesis. 

The alignment of the research between Dr Thompson, the NHS II, and Four Corners studies and others suggests that reduced cancer risk is associated with increased common bean consumption. That’s why he recommends daily bean consumption as a “simple, affordable lifestyle habit that could reduce cancer risk while improving food security and creating a sustainable global ecology”.

It’s what goes in …

Dr Thompson’s research is just one example of how the quality and types of food we put in our bodies play a role in determining overall health outcomes. At Zylem, our strapline is “soil health, plant health, for human health”. We help farmers form healthier soils, which in turn lead to healthier crops and healthier humans. 

Get in touch with the Zylem team to find out more about our soil and plant health solutions. Contact us on 033 347 2893 or send your enquiry to