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The Prediabetes Nutritionist

Little Known Benefits of Sesame Seeds in Prediabetes Care-Featured

The Surprising Benefits of Beniseeds for Prediabetes You Should Know

Sesame seeds, or beniseeds, are well-known for their delightful nutty flavour and versatile culinary uses. They have many health benefits, including lowering cholesterol, blood pressure and blood glucose. In an era where type 2 diabetes is a significant public health concern, exploring the beneficial properties of sesame seeds in diabetes care is pertinent.

This blog post discusses sesame seeds, their nutritional value and potential benefits in prediabetes care. 

Sesame Seeds: Varieties and Culinary Uses

Sesame seeds are tiny, oil-rich seeds derived from the Sesamum indicum plant. They are one of the oldest cultivated oilseed crops in the world, with evidence of their use dating back to at least 5,000 years ago. They originate from regions in India and Africa but are now grown globally. Tanzania is currently the leading producer of sesame seeds.1

Sesame seeds exist in different varieties, each with unique characteristics in terms of colour, flavour and culinary uses. The common types of sesame seeds include:1

White or cream sesame seeds are the most common variety with a mild, nutty and slightly sweet flavour. They are used in baked goods, salads, stir-fries, and as a garnish for sushi and bread. In African cuisines, they are ground or blended to make thick stews as an accompaniment to rice, pounded yam, fufu or eba. Middle Easterners grind it into a paste called tahini, often used to make hummus and falafel. White sesame seeds are usually toasted to intensify their flavour.

Black sesames are deep brown or black with a rich, earthy, slightly bitter taste. They are popular in Asian cuisines, especially in desserts like black sesame soup and sweet dumplings. They also add colour and flavour to dishes like sushi and salads.

Brown sesame seeds have a nuttier and more robust flavour than white ones. They are less common than white sesame seeds but are used similarly. They add a slightly different flavour profile to dishes and are typically found in whole-grain bread and crackers.

Golden sesame seeds are light golden yellow with a mild, nutty flavour. Their attractive colour makes them popular for garnishing sweet and savoury dishes. They are used in Middle Eastern dishes.

Wild sesame seeds come from the Sesamum angolense plant that is native to various regions of Africa. Less common than other varieties, the seeds can be red, purple, brown or black, with a bitter, more intense, earthy flavour than white ones. They are primarily used in specific African dishes, including bread, stews and sauces, to add colour and flavour.

Nutritional Value of Sesame Seeds

Sesame seeds are a nutritional powerhouse packed with essential nutrients contributing to overall health and well-being. They are good sources of heart-healthy monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, protein and fibre. They contain vitamin E, a potent antioxidant that reduces oxidative stress and various B vitamins, including niacin (vitamin B3), folate (vitamin B9), and riboflavin (vitamin B2), vitamins that play vital roles in metabolism, energy production and nerve function.2

Sesame seeds are also good sources of various minerals, including calcium, magnesium, iron, zinc, and phosphorus.2 Sesame seeds contain phytosterols that may help lower low-density lipoprotein (LDL or ‘bad’) cholesterol and lignans (sesamin, sesamol, sesamolin and sesaminol), plant compounds with anti-inflammatory and hormone-balancing effects. These lignans lower blood pressure and cholesterol and protect nerve cells.1-3 The nutritional value of sesame seeds is detailed in the table below.

Nutritional Profile of Sesame Seeds (per 100g)2
Energy
Protein
Carbohydrate
Fibre
Fat
Saturated fat
Monounsaturated fat
Polyunsaturated fat
573 kcal
17 g
25.7 g
14 g
49.7 g
6.7 g
18.1 g
21 g
Vitamins
Thiamin
Riboflavin
Niacin
Vitamin B6
Vitamin E
Folate
Carotene
0.8 mg
0.3 mg
4.6 mg
0.8 mg
57.375 mcg
98 mg
60 mcg
Minerals
Calcium
Iron
Magnesium
Phosphorus
Potassium
Zinc
Copper
Selenium
989 mg
14.8 mg
356 mg
638 mg
475 mg
7.2 mg
2.5 mg
5.8 mcg
Phytosterols400-413 mg

Benefits of Sesame Seeds in Prediabetes Care 

Managing prediabetes and type 2 diabetes involves controlling blood pressure, cholesterol, weight and blood glucose. While they are not a replacement for medical treatment or personalised nutrition plans provided by your registered dietitian/nutritionist, here are some ways in which sesame seeds can contribute to diabetes care:

1 | Blood glucose control

Sesame seeds are fibre-rich with a low glycaemic index.4 These attributes mean they digest slowly and stabilise blood glucose levels after meals. Sesame seeds are rich in magnesium, a mineral that plays a crucial role in glucose metabolism (processing) and insulin function, and according to research, may lower the risk of insulin resistance.5 Its lignan, sesamin, can also prevent blood glucose from rising by converting glucose to glycogen and triggering insulin production.6

Sesame seeds and blood glucose control

Scientists have investigated if sesame seeds can help regulate blood glucose in adults with diabetes. Yargholi and colleagues performed a meta-analysis of eight studies conducted in Iran, India, Brazil and Pakistan and published between 2006 and 2020. The studies lasted 7-12 weeks and included 262 participants aged 18-70. Compared to the control group, sesame seeds reduced fasting blood glucose by 28.23 mg/dL and HbA1c (glycated haemoglobin) by 1% but did not change insulin levels.7 Sohouli and colleagues had similar findings.8

Sankar and colleagues performed an open-label study, including 60 patients with type 2 diabetes. They split them into three groups: receiving sesame oil, glibenclamide (a glucose-lowering medication) or sesame oil and glibenclamide. After 60 days, patients receiving both sesame oil and glibenclamide have significantly reduced fasting blood glucose, total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol and triglycerides compared with either sesame oil or glibenclamide alone. Notably, sesame oil alone reduced fasting blood glucose and improved the participants’ blood fat profile.9

Aslam and colleagues investigated the effects of white sesame seed oil on fasting blood glucose, insulin, HbA1c and liver antioxidant enzymes in 46 patients with type 2 diabetes. After 90 days, patients taking sesame oil had significantly lower fasting blood glucose and HbA1c than the control group. Insulin levels and liver antioxidant enzymes also increased significantly.10

2 | Cholesterol and triglycerides

Sesame seeds are a good source of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats that can boost high-density lipoprotein (HDL or ‘good’) cholesterol levels. They also contain phytosterols, plant compounds with a similar structure to cholesterol. When eaten, phytosterols compete with dietary cholesterol for absorption in the intestines. This competition limits the amount of dietary cholesterol the body can absorb, helping to reduce overall levels.11

Sesame seeds and cholesterol and triglycerides

The soluble fibre in sesame seeds can form gel-like substances in the digestive tract that bind to cholesterol molecules and promote their excretion from the body.12 This process can help lower LDL cholesterol. The antioxidant lignans, sesamin and sesamol reduce oxidative stress and inflammation, critical drivers of imbalanced cholesterol profiles.1

Hsu and Parthasarathy conducted a systematic review of 14 studies (mostly animal studies) investigating the effects of sesame oil on cholesterol levels and inflammation. In animal studies, sesame seed oil reduced total cholesterol, LDL, and very low-density lipoprotein (VLDL) cholesterol. However, the results were inconclusive in human studies because sesame seed oil was mixed with sunflower oil or given with nifedipine, a blood pressure medication.13

Namayandeh and colleagues compared the effects of olive and sesame oils on blood fat profile in 48 patients (50% men, mean age 41 years) with high cholesterol. The patients replaced their regular cooking oils with 60ml of olive oil or sesame oil for one month. Like olive oil, sesame oil reduced total cholesterol, triglycerides and LDL cholesterol and increased HDL cholesterol. It also encouraged weight loss.14

Alipoor and colleagues investigated the effects of sesame seeds on blood fats and antioxidant status in 38 patients with raised blood fats. The patients maintained their regular diets, but some included 40g of sesame seeds for 60 days. Patients taking sesame seeds reduced total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol and total cholesterol to HDL cholesterol and increased their antioxidant levels.15

3 | Weight management

Sesame seeds and weight management

The fibre in sesame seeds adds bulk to the diet, which can help you feel fuller for longer. It’s protein and fats also increase feelings of satiety, which may reduce calorie consumption by curbing hunger and excessive snacking. Animal studies also suggest that sesame lignans (sesamin and episesamin) increase the release of enzymes that promote fat burning in the liver.16

Raeisi-Dehkordi and colleagues conducted a systematic analysis of 10 studies to investigate the effects of sesame products on body weight, body mass index (BMI), waist circumference and body fat. A total of 750 participants with a mean age of 41-59 were included in the study. Sesame oil did not reduce body weight, BMI, and waist or hip circumference but reduced body fat percentage. However, further investigations showed that sesame oil reduced weight and BMI in patients with high blood pressure.17 A recent study confirmed this finding, showing that sesame oil could reduce body fat, but the reduction was not clinically meaningful.18

4 | High blood pressure

Sesame seed oil is rich in minerals that regulate blood pressure, including magnesium, potassium, and calcium.

Sesame seeds and blood pressure
  • Magnesium relaxes blood vessels, improving blood flow and reducing pressure on the walls of the arteries (the blood vessels that take blood from the heart to the rest of the body).19
  • Potassium regulates fluid balance in the body by counteracting sodium, which can raise blood pressure when consumed in excess.20
  • Calcium regulates blood pressure by controlling the narrowing of blood vessels and hormones that regulate blood volume.21

Farajbakhsh and colleagues investigated the effects of sesame oil on lipid profile, fasting blood glucose, insulin resistance and blood pressure in 75 adults (age 30-70 years) with metabolic syndrome. Sesame oil alone or enriched with vitamin E significantly reduced total cholesterol, triglycerides, insulin resistance and blood pressure.22

Miyawaki and colleagues investigated the effects of sesamin capsules in 25 adults with mild hypertension. The participants received either 60mg of sesamin or placebo daily for four weeks. After a four-week washout, the participants swapped treatments for another four weeks. Sesamin capsules reduced systolic (top number) blood pressure by 3.5 mmHg and diastolic (bottom number) blood pressure by 1.9 mmHg, but the placebo had no effect.23­­

In summary…

Sesame seeds offer a range of benefits that may be valuable in diabetes care. Their vitamin, mineral, antioxidant and fibre content, low glycaemic index, and potential to improve insulin insensitivity, fasting blood glucose, lipid profile, and blood pressure make them a good choice for individuals with prediabetes, diabetes or metabolic syndrome and those wanting to improve their overall well-being.

Try these tips to harness the benefits of sesame seeds:

  • Sprinkle them on salads
  • Stir them into yoghurt
  • Make granola or energy bars
  • Make a stew (recipe coming soon)

Always consult your healthcare team or registered dietitian/nutritionist to create a personalised diabetes management plan that considers your unique dietary needs and health goals before changing your diet. With careful planning, sesame seeds can be a flavourful and nutritious addition to your diet and lifestyle plan toward better diabetes control and overall health.

REFERENCES

  1. Wei, P., Zhao, F., Wang, Z., Wang, Q., Chai, X., Hou, G., & Meng, Q. (2022) Sesame (Sesamum indicum L.): A comprehensive review of nutritional value, phytochemical composition, health benefits, development of food, and industrial applications. Nutrients, 14(19): 4079. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu14194079.
  2. Hadipour, E., Emami, S.A., Tayarani-Najaran, N., & Tayarani-Najaran, Z. (2023) Effects of sesame (Sesamum indicum L.) and bioactive compounds (sesamin and sesamolin) on inflammation and atherosclerosis: a review. Food Science & Nutrition, 11: 3729-3757. https://doi.org/10.1002/fsn3.3407
  3. Dar, A.A. & Arumugam, N. (2013) Lignans of sesame: purification methods, biological activities and biosynthesis – a review. Bioorganic Chemistry, 50: 1-10. https://doi.org/10.10/16/j.bioorg.2013.06.009
  4. Sesame Seeds. Glycemic Index Research and GI News. Accessed: 22 September 2023. Available: https://glycemicindex.com/2023/01/sesame-seeds/
  5. Li, W., Jiao, Y., Wang, L., Wang, S., Hao, L., Wang, Z., Wang, H., Zhang, B., Ding, G., & Jiang, H. (2022) Association of serum magnesium with insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes among adults in China. Nutrients, 14(9): 1799. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu14091799.
  6. Lin, Y-C., Thuy, T.D>, Wang, S-Y., Huang, P-L (2014) Type 1 diabetes, cardiovascular complications and sesame. Journal of Traditional and Complementary Medicine, 4(1): 36-41. https://doi.org/10.4103/2225-4110.124817.
  7. Yargholi, A., Najafi, M.H., Zareian, M.A., Hawkins, J., Shirbeigni, L., & Ayati, M.H. (2021) The effects of sesame consumption on glycaemic control in adults: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomised clinical trials. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, https://doi.org/10.1155/2021/2873534.
  8. Sohouli, M.H., Haghshenas, N., Hernandez-Ruiz, A., & Shidfar, F. (2022) Consumption of sesame seeds and sesame products has favourable effects on blood glucose levels but not on insulin resistance: A systematic review and meta-analysis of controlled clinical trials. Phytotherapy Research, 36(3): 1126-1134. https://doi.org/10.1002/ptr.7379.
  9. Sankar, D., Ali, A., Sambandam, G., & Rao, R. (2011) Sesame oil exhibits synergistic effects with anti-diabetic medication in patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus. Clinical Nutrition, 30(3): 351-358. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.clnu.2010.11.005.
  10. Aslam, F., Iqbal, S., Nasir, M., & Anjum, A.A. (2019) White sesame seed oil mitigates blood glucose level, reduces oxidative stress, and improves biomarkers of hepatic and renal function in participants with type 2 diabetes mellitus. Journal of the American College of Nutrition, 38(3): 235-246. https://doi.org/10.1080/07315724.2018.1500183.
  11. Ostlund, R.E. (2004) Phytosterols and cholesterol metabolism. Current Opinion in Lipidology, 15(1): 37-41. https://doi.org/10.1097/00041433-200402000-0008.
  12. Soliman, G.A. (2019) Dietary fibre, atherosclerosis, and cardiovascular disease. Nutrients, 11(5); 1155. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu11051155.
  13. Hsu, E., & Parthasarathy, S. (2017) Anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects of sesame oil on atherosclerosis: a descriptive literature review. Cureus, 9(7): e1438. https://doi.org/10.7759/cureus.1438.
  14. Namayandeh, S.M., Kaseb, F., & Lesan, S. (2013) Olive and sesame oil effect on lipid profile in hypercholesterolemic patients, which is better? International Journal of Preventive Medicine, 4(9): 1059-1062. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3793488/
  15. Alipoor, B., Haghighian, M.K., Sadat, B.E., & Asghari, M. (2012) Effect of sesame seed on lipid profile and redox status in hyperlipidemic patients. Internation Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition, 63(6): 674-678. https://doi.org/10.3109/09637486.2011.652077.
  16. Kushiro, M., Masaoka, T., Hageshita, S., Takahashi, Y., Ide, T., & Sugano, M. (2002). Comparative effect of sesamin and episesamin on the activity and gene expression of enzymes in fatty acid oxidation and synthesis in rat liver. The Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry, 13(5): 289-295. https://doi.org/10.1016/s0955-2863(01)00224-8.
  17. Raeisi-Dehkordi, H., Mohammadi, M., Moghtaderi, F., & Salehi-Abarguei, A. (2018) Do sesame seed and its product affects body weight and composition? A systematic review and meta-analysis of controlled trials. Journal of Functional Foods, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jff.2018.08.036.
  18. Raeisi-Dehkordi, H., Amiri, M., Moghtaderi, F., Zimorovat, A., Rahmanian, M., Mozaffari-Khosravi, H., Salehi-Abargouei, A. (2021) Effects of sesame, canola, and sesame-canola oils on body weight and composition in adults with type 2 diabetes mellitus: a randomised, triple-blind, cross-over clinical trial. Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture, https://doi.org/10.1002/jsfa.11265.
  19. Alawi, A.M., Majoni, S.W., & Falhammar, H. (2018) Magnesium and human health: perspectives and research directions. International Journal of Endocrinology, https://doi.org/10.1155/2018/9041694.
  20. Burnier, M. (2019) Should we eat more potassium to better control blood pressure in hypertension? Nephrology, Dialysis & Transplantation, 34(2): https://doi.org/10.1093/ndt/gfx340.
  21. Villa-Etchegoyen, C., Lombarte, M., Matamoros, N., Belizan, J.M., & Cormick, G. (2019) Nutrients, 11(5): 1112. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu11051112.
  22. Farajbakhsh, A., Mazloomi, S.M., Mazidi, M., Rezaie, P., Akbarzadeh, M., Ahmad, S.P., Ferns, G.A., Ofori-Asenso, R., & Babajafar, S. (2019) Sesame oil and vitamin E co-administration may improve cardiometabolic risk factors in patients with metabolic syndrome: a randomised clinical trial. European Journal Clinical Nutrition, 73(10): 1403-1411. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41430-019-0438-5.
  23. Miyawaki, T., Aono, H., Toyoda-Ono, Y., Maeda, H., Kiso, Y., & Moriyam, K. (2009) Antihypertensive effects of sesamin in humans. https://doi.org/10.3177/jnsv.55.87

Shishehbour, F., Hojati, N., Jahanshahi, A., Haghighyzade, M.H. (2015) Effects of sesame seed consumption on anthropometric indices, lipid profile and atherogenic index of plasma in women with metabolic syndrome. Iranian Journal of Endocrinology and Metabolism, 17(4):282-291. https://ijem.sbmu.ac.ir/article-1-1943-en.html

DISCLAIMER: Not a substitute for medical advice – All content is for informational purposes only and is not intended to provide medical or nutrition advice or to take the place of medical/nutrition advice or treatment from your doctor or health professional. Since each person’s health conditions are very specific, viewers of this content are advised to consult their doctors or qualified health professionals regarding specific health questions. All content, including text, graphics, images, and information in this post/video, is for general information only and does not replace a consultation with your doctor/health professional.

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