Article by Swati Rathore; Originally published in
While the goodness of millets has been talked about for ages now, this time it is leading research institutions that are rooting for this humble cereal’s effectiveness in fighting the dreaded chronic disease — diabetes.
A study, led by Hyderabad-based premier agri research institute International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (Icrisat), which includes a systematic review of research published on millets and diabetes across 11 countries by various research institutions, concluded that consumption of millets helps reduce the risk of developing type-2 diabetes.
The study took into account 11 types of millets, with various processing or cooking-levels. “The study shows diabetic people who consumed millets as part of their daily diet saw their blood glucose levels drop 12-15% (fasting and post-meal), and blood glucose levels going from diabetic to pre-diabetes levels,” the study said.
As per the findings of the study, the HbA1c (blood glucose bound to haemoglobin) levels lowered 17% on average for pre-diabetic individuals, and the levels went from prediabetic to normal status for people who consumed millets daily. The Icrisat study showed that millets have a lower glycemic index (GI) than staples like wheat and rice. GI helps to measure how much a specific food item increases the blood sugar level. While all cooking methods raised the GI level in food, millets, even after being cooked, still had a low average GI.
The study found that millets have a low average GI of 52.7, about 30% lower that the GI of milled rice and refined wheat, and about 14-37 GI points lower compared to maize. The study assumes importance in Covid times as it has been widely seen that people who are diabetic are more vulnerable to becoming severely ill or dying from Covid-19.
“On-farm diversity is a risk mitigating strategy for farmers in the face of climate change while on-plate diversity helps counter lifestyle diseases such as diabetes. Millets are part of the solution to mitigate the challenges associated with malnutrition, human health, natural resource degradation, and climate change,” said Icrisat director general, Jacqueline Hughes.
Diabetes is one of the leading causes of death in the world. As per World Health Organisation data, in 2019, an estimated 1.5 million deaths were directly caused by diabetes, and 3.7 million from diabetes and high blood sugar levels.