Health Benefits of Millet

Foxtail Millet May Help Control Blood Sugar and Cholesterol

Foxtail millet (Setaria italica) is a common food in parts of India. Scientists at Sri Venkateswara University in that country studied its health benefits in diabetic rats, and concluded that the millet produced a “significant fall (70%) in blood glucose” while having no such effect in normal rats. Diabetic rats fed millet also showed significantly lower levels of triglycerides, and total/LDL/VLDLcholesterol, while exhibiting an increase in HDL cholesterol.
Pathophysiology. Sept 23, 2010 [Epub ahead of print]

Sprouting (Malting) Millet Makes Some Minerals More Bioavailable

In India and some other countries, sprouted (malted) grains are commonly used as weaning foods for infants and as easily-digested foods for the elderly and infirm.  A study at the Central Food Technological Research Institute in Mysore, India, measured the changes caused by malting finger millet, wheat and barley. They found that malting millet increased the bioaccessibility of iron (> 300%) and manganese (17%), and calcium (“marginally”), while reducing bioaccessibility of zinc and making no difference in copper. The effects of malting on different minerals varied widely by grain.
Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. 14 July 2010; 58(13):8100-3.  

All Millet Varieties Show High Antioxidant Activity

At the Memorial University of Newfoundland in Canada, a team of biochemists analyzed the antioxidant activity and phenolic content of several varieties of millet: kodo, finger, foxtail, proso, pearl, and little millets. Kodo millet showed the highest phenolic content, and proso millet the least. All varieties showed high antioxidant activity, in both soluble and bound fractions.
Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, 9 June 2010; 58(11):6706-14.

Naturally Gluten-Free Grains May Be Cross-Contaminated

A Polish team from the Instytut Zywnosci in Warsaw analyzed 22 gluten-free products and 19 naturally gluten-free grains and flours, for gluten content. Gluten content in the products ranged from 5.19 to 57.16 mg/kg. In the inherently gluten-free grains and flours, no gluten was detected in rice and buckwheat samples, but was detected in rice flakes (7.05 mg/kg) in pearl millet (27.51 mg/kg) and in oats (>100 mg/kg).
(Poland) Rocz Panstw Zaki Hig. 2010; 61(1):51-5.

Meanwhile, in the U.S., Tricia Thompson, MS, RD, a nutrition consultant specializing in gluten-free diets, arranged for gluten-testing of 22 retail samples of inherently gluten-free grains, seeds, and flours. She found contamination of 20 to 2925 ppm in seven of 22 samples, putting them over the proposed FDA limit of 20 ppm, with lower levels in some others. Both articles point to the importance of gluten-free certification even on foods that are naturally gluten-free, such as millet.
(USA) Journal of the American Dietetic Association. June 2010; 110(6):937-40.

Millet consumption decreases triglycerides and C-reactive protein

Scientists in Seoul, South Korea, fed a high-fat diet to rats for 8 weeks to induce hyperlipidemia, then randomly divided into four diet groups: white rice, sorghum, foxtail millet and proso millet for the next 4 weeks. At the end of the study, triglycerides were significantly lower in the two groups consuming foxtail or proso millet, and levels of C-reactive protein were lowest in the foxtail millet group. The researchers concluded that millet may be useful in preventing cardiovascular disease.
Nutrition Research. April 2010; 30(4):290-6.

Indian Diabetics Turn to Ragi (Finger Millet) and other Millets

Diabetes is rising rapidly in India, as it is in many nations. Researchers at Sri Devaraj Urs Medical College in Tamaka, Kola, India decided to study the prevalence and awareness of diabetes in rural areas, in order to inform health policy. While there was widespread lack of awareness of the longterm effects of diabetes and diabetic care, common perception favored consumption of ragi, millet and whole wheat chapatis instead of rice, sweets and fruit.
International Journal of Diabetes in Developing Countries. January 2010; 30(1):18-21.

Finger Millet (Ragi) Tops in Antioxidant Activity Among Common Indian Foods

The National Institute of Nutrition in Hyderabad, India, carried out a study of the total phenolic content and antioxidant activity of various pulses, legumes and cereals, including millets. Finger millet and Rajmah (a type of bean) were highest in antioxidant activity, while finger millet and black gram dhal (a type of lentil) had the highest total phenolic content.
Indian Journal of Biochemistry and Biophysics
. February 2009; 46(1):112-5.