PASCO, Wash., June 18-- Washington, Oregon, and Idaho are major growers of peas and lentils, but like other U.S. growers of legumes, they ship most of their crops abroad. Americans are just not that enthusiastic about eating legumes (a plant family that also includes garbanzos, soy, black, kidney, and other dry beans), though they are excellent sources of fiber, protein, minerals, B vitamins, and folic acid.
Studies conducted with an improved analytical method called high performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) now suggest that legumes contain more folic acid than had previously been detected, according to Kathaleen Briggs Early, a researcher at Washington State University, Pullman.
She reported her results here today at the Northwest Regional meeting of the American Chemical Society, the world's largest scientific society. Folic acid reduces levels of homocysteine, an amino acid that is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease. Folates play an important role during pregnancy, lowering the risks of certain serious birth defects.
Studies on the mental functions of the elderly suggest that increased consumption of folate-rich foods may improve their cognitive abilities. These factors, coupled with improved measurement techniques, could help legume growers to sell more of their product in the U. S. , said Early.
A nonprofit organization with a membership of more than 155,000 chemists and chemical engineers as its members, the American Chemical Society publishes scientific journals and databases, convenes major research conferences, and provides educational, science policy and career programs in chemistry. Its main offices are in Washington, D.C., and Columbus, Ohio.