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There are all kinds of opinions on whether or not soaking beans helps decrease flatulence.

Some say adding things like baking soda, lemon juice, salt, or other things to the bath helps the effect. Some say soaking them in a warm-water bath is more effective than a cold-water bath. Others say there is no effect whatsoever. Opinions of food-column editors and bloggers (and even users of Seasoned Advice!) seem to diverge considerably.

This tells me there might be little consensus in the general public. But what do the scientists who study this say?

It makes sense that this could be difficult to study, since flatulence production depends on the type of bean/legume, other food ingredients (e.g. cinnamon, garlic, ginger, sulfur-rich foods, etc.), diet, the person's individual GI response to chemicals and fiber, and probably other factors.

I've collected a number of sources:

Sources claiming soaking has little/no effect on flatulence

Sources claiming warm-water soaking helps prevent flatulence

Sources claiming that flatulence shouldn't be a big deal

Sources claiming soaking with additives helps prevent flatulence

Other Soaking Sources

Is there a scientific consensus on how to reduce flatulence from beans and/or legumes in general (if possible), and if so, what is it?

Please include multiple sources to peer-reviewed articles in your answer!

  • I don't understand what the question means. What is "a scientific consensus"? The whole point of science is that it consists of different theories. When would you say that a consensus exists? What does evidence for a consensus look like for you? – rumtscho Sep 16 '15 at 17:31
  • @rumtscho: The whole point of science is that the many different ideas about something converge to a single idea through observation and/or experimentation. Experimental or observational evidence supports or refutes certain ideas, narrowing the pool of ideas until usually only one idea remains, and this stands the test of time. – jvriesem Sep 16 '15 at 18:18
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    Given the number of sources you've provided yourself, I think the answer to your question about a scientific consensus is a simple "no". I'm not sure I get what you're asking either. Your own question states near the beginning that there appears to be little consensus. I doubt that there's been any more than a handful of peer-reviewed studies that have managed to account for all the possible factors on this topic. – logophobe Sep 16 '15 at 18:22
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    Well, hopefully this happens someday, although it is usually only about very big and clear-cut issues, at least in nutrition (classic theory of science tends to be based on physics, which is easier). Does it mean that you only see it as a consensus when nobody in the community defends the opposite theory? This is one of the common criteria, but we obviously don't have that here. – rumtscho Sep 16 '15 at 18:24
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    We are not finding a definition of Scientific Consensus here :). Please answer the OP. – banavalikar Sep 17 '15 at 7:12
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Love this question. I was vegetarian for a few years, so I too thoroughly researched this question, and I guess you could say I spent many hours "running experiments" as well...

I see you posing two questions:

  • Does soaking beans (possibly with added bases, acids, salts, etc) reduce flatulence?
  • What are other ways to reduce flatulence?

Some background on my method:
When I cook beans, I always soak them for over 24 hours, and sometimes as long as 3 days. I always soak them in the fridge - just because they will start getting funky if left on the counter for over 24 hours - and I usually change the water once a day. I only ever salt them after they are finished cooking, because I am a believer in the old wives tale that salt breaks apart bean skins.

Does it work?
Because I always soak my beans, I don't have a control to compare my experience to. So I cannot confidently say whether soaking reduces flatulence. The scientific articles you cite would probably better answer this question.

That being said, a method of reducing flatulence which I am fairly confident works, is to just eat more beans! Back when I was a vegetarian, I could easily go through over 2lbs of (dry) beans a week. This did not prevent me from having a social life, and I didn't notice any difference in amount (or is it technically volume?) of gas compared to when I didn't eat beans. I remember reading somewhere this is a result of how our stomachs adapt to what we eat over the long term.

And in the end, maybe flatulence isn't something we should be trying to avoid. As the old ditty goes,

Beans beans, the magical fruit
The more you eat, the more you toot
The more you toot, the better you feel
So let's have beans with every meal!

Words to live by indeed!

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You are forgetting one step of science: theory. It is bad science to jump to experiments without theory. If you know what causes flatulence: oligosaccharides: raffinose and one I cant remember, that we cant digest but our bacteria can. I think these are water soluble, so soaking should work. BUT: only if you destroy the cells where they are stored. But then you would destroy the bean as well, i guess (i think this is where the soda comes in, it is a base, so it helps the pectinases breaking up the pectin of the cells walls). So i guess the choice is between soggy tasteless beans or farts.

NOT soaking your beans at all gives the nicest taste, I think. And soaking without soda wont do much, is my theory (see above). Hope this helps?

  • You're right: theory is important. What I'm asking, however, is for some scientific, peer-reviewed literature that would support one theory or another, and whether the scientific community has decided a particular theory is better-supported than its competitors. – jvriesem Mar 23 '16 at 17:43

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