The way to a healthier heart could be as simple as changing the type of flour in the foods we eat.
Victoria University dietitian Dr Regina Belski has taken out one of 16 national Fresh Science awards given to early-career research scientists for her discovery that lupin bean flour improves heart health.
Her 12-month study of 130 overweight but otherwise healthy people, undertaken alongside researchers from the University of Western Australia and The Centre for Food and Genomic Medicine, found participants who ate bread, pasta and biscuits in which normal wheat flour was partially replaced with lupin flour had a lower risk of developing heart disease.
''It shows that by making a simple change in food choice we can see direct health benefits like a decreased risk of heart disease,'' Dr Belski said.
Dr Belski said 85 per cent of the world's lupin supply was grown in Australia, but most was exported or used as stock feed.
"However, following the discovery of its potential health benefits for humans, its use in human foods is beginning to take hold, with lupin bread now being commercially available in Western Australia," Dr Belski said. "It's exciting that we could be looking at a much healthier population using a resource that is abundant in Australia.''
Bread made with Lupin flour is yellow in colour and denser than regular bread.
Dr Belski said previous short-term studies had indicated that lupin bread had the potential to aid weight loss because it was more filling and reduced the amount of food people ate at their next meal.
The heart health benefits observed in Dr Belski's study included effects on insulin sensitivity, important for preventing the development of Type 2 diabetes. This has led to further research exploring the benefits of lupin flour for individuals with Type 2 diabetes.
Dr Belski encouraged people interested in lupin flour's heart health benefits to start requesting lupin bread at bakeries and supermarkets, or to buy their own lupin flour for baking.
The 26-year-old Dr Belski said she was honoured to be just the second Victoria University academic to win a Fresh Science award and hoped it would underline the quality of the nutrition and dietetic research and teaching within the School of Biomedical and Health Sciences at Victoria University.
Dr Belski said her research on heart health and prevention of chronic disease will continue to grow at Victoria University as part of the Dietetics team's expansion of research and the new Biomedical & Lifestyle Diseases Research Unit.
With the introduction of the new Master of Science in Dietetics program at Victoria University earlier this year, the department is flourishing in its dual role of educating future dietitians and adding to evidence-based research in the field.
Find more information on the Fresh Science competition.
For interview: Dr Regina Belski (03) 9919 2175; [email protected]
Media inquiries: Michael Quin, Communications Officer (Research)
Marketing and Communications Department, Victoria University
(03) 9919 9491; 0431 815 409; [email protected]