Part 2: What are the Health Benefits of Lupins?

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If you’re trying to include more plant-based foods in your diet, you might be interested in lupins.

Our first blog post explained what lupins are, the nutritional benefits and how you can include them in your diet.

This second blog post explores the science behind the health benefits of lupins.

Lupins, Satiety and Energy Intake

Studies have suggested that consuming lupins may result in increased satiety (or fullness) and a corresponding lower intake of calories during the day.

A study in 33 middle-aged men found that replacing some of the fat in a breakfast sausage patty with lupin-kernel fibre was an effective way of reducing fat intake (by 37%) and calorie intake (by 17%) in the participants (1).

What’s more, the lupin sausage patty was rated as more satiating (filling) than the full-fat sausage patty, and the men ate 26% less fat throughout the day compared with the day that they ate the full-fat sausage patty. The researchers concluded that lupin-kernel fibre has the potential to be used as a fat replacer in meat products and could help to reduce fat and energy intake in men.

Two small randomised controlled crossover trials conducted in 16 participants found that lupin-enriched bread increases satiety and reduces calorie intake compared with standard white bread (2).

Study one found that lupin bread resulted in significantly higher self-reported satiety and participants ate less calories (-115 kcal) at lunch compared with the white bread eaters. Study two found that lupin bread significantly lowered ghrelin (a hunger hormone which stimulates appetite and food intake) in the blood three hours after eating (2).

Lupins and Blood Pressure

Hypertension (high blood pressure) is a risk factor for developing heart disease, stroke and kidney disease (3).

A study of 131 overweight individuals conducted over 12 months assigned participants to a lupin-enriched diet or high-carbohydrate diet. Despite there being no effect on weight loss or maintenance, those assigned to the lupin-enriched diet had significantly (albeit small) improvements in their blood pressure and fasting insulin concentrations after 12 months (4).

An additional study found that lupins had beneficial effects on blood pressure after just four months (5). A group of 74 overweight or obese individuals replaced 15-20% of their usual daily energy intake with either lupin flour-enriched bread or white bread. Those in the lupin group demonstrated small reductions in their systolic (-3.0 mm Hg) and diastolic (-0.6 mm Hg) blood pressure measurements by the end of the trial.

The researchers concluded that increasing protein and fiber in bread with lupin could be a simple way to help reduce blood pressure and cardiovascular risk.

Lupins and Cholesterol

High concentrations of total cholesterol and LDL (“bad”) cholesterol is associated with increased risk of coronary heart disease (6, 7).

A randomised crossover study in 38 healthy men found that consuming a lupin-enriched diet for one month significantly reduced total cholesterol and LDL-cholesterol by around 5% compared with a control diet (8).

The researchers concluded that adding lupin fibre to the diet may result in favourable changes in blood lipid levels in men, which could help to lower their risk of coronary heart disease.

A randomised controlled trial of 33 patients with high cholesterol demonstrated that consuming 25g of lupin per day (as a protein drink) resulted in significant reductions (-0.34 +/- 0.59 mmol/L) in LDL-cholesterol in people with very high cholesterol (> 6.6 mmol/L) after eight weeks (9).

A further double-blinded, randomised controlled study of 68 participants with high cholesterol found that adding 25g of lupin protein per day into food products over a 4-week period significantly reduced blood lipids (total and LDL cholesterol and triacylglycerols), especially in people with severe high cholesterol (> 6.6 mmol/L) (10).

Lupins and Gut Health

One of the best ways to look after your gut health is through eating a diet which is high in fibre.

In our previous blog post, we explained that lupins are one of the world’s richest sources of plant-based protein and dietary fibre (11).

Studies have demonstrated that adding lupin kernel fibre into the diets of healthy adults results in beneficial effects on gut health; it stimulates healthy bacterial growth (12), improves markers of healthy bowel function (13), and may reduce risk factors for colorectal cancer (14).

To summarise, there’s a fast-growing evidence base to suggest that lupins have multiple health benefits, especially in those looking to improve their heart health, lose weight or optimise their gut health.