Millet & Diabetes

Millet
A box of millet. (Image: DAJ/amana images/Getty Images)

Millet is actually a group of related plants that produce small pearl-like grains and not a single plant. Millet is low in essential amino acids and higher than most grains in fat content, 75 percent of which is heart-healthy polyunsaturated fat. Millet has been shown to be potentially beneficial in the management of diabetes.

Fiber

Millet may make a good substitute for rice for some diabetics, according to Peter Belton, author of the book "Pseudocereals and Less Common Cereals: Grain Properties and Utilization Potential." Millet's high fiber content slows digestion and releases sugar into the bloodstream at a more even pace. This helps diabetics avoid dangerous spikes in blood sugar that lead to glucose spilling over into the urine, known as glucosuria. Millet also contains high quantities of methionine, an amino acid that is deficient in most grains, giving millet a valuable place in a vegetarian diet.

Triglycerides

Researchers at the department of biological chemistry and food science, faculty of agriculture, Iwate University, Japan reported that a high-fat diet containing 20 percent millet protein for three weeks significantly decreased glucose and triglyceride levels and increased levels of adiponectin -- a substance secreted by fat cells that regulates appetite -- in laboratory animals. Millet also increased levels of high-density lipoprotein, HDL, the good form of cholesterol. The researchers concluded that millet may potentially be useful at managing insulin resistance and cardiovascular disease in Type 2 diabetes. The study was published in the February 2009 issue of the journal "Bioscience, Biotechnology and Biochemistry."

Insulin Resistance

Millet is featured among a list of healthy foods for its ability to decrease insulin resistance in the book "The 200 SuperFoods That Will Save Your Life" by registered dietitian Deborah A. Klein, M.S. Millet is also a good source of B vitamins your body uses to process carbohydrates. Millet contains substantial quantities of several minerals, including calcium, iron, potassium and magnesium. Klein notes that preliminary research has produced promising results for the potential of millet in treating Type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

Comparison Study

Millet produced the lowest post-prandial -- after a meal -- blood sugar levels in a study on the blood sugar and insulin effects of traditional Sudanese meals. Study participants with Type 2 diabetes ate meals of wheat, sorghum, millet and maize on six difference occasions with a 1-week interval. Two-hour postprandial blood sugar levels were lowest when participants ate a millet porridge. The study was conducted by the department of medical sciences, University Hospital, Uppsala, Sweden.

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