You might not think of nuts as a health food, but three new studies have found consuming them as part of a healthy diet can reduce the risk of diabetes, as well as heart disease and high cholesterol.
The findings, presented this week at the Experimental Biology Meeting in Boston, also found people who eat nuts — including almonds, Brazil nuts, cashews, hazelnuts, macadamias, pecans, pine nuts, pistachios, and walnuts — tend to eat a healthier diet, weight less, have a lower prevalence of metabolic syndrome, and fewer cardiovascular risk factors than non-consumers.
"These three new studies, independent of one another, support the growing body of evidence showing that consuming nuts can improve your health," said Maureen Ternus, M.S., executive director of the International Tree Nut Council Nutrition Research & Education Foundation. "In 2003, FDA [in a qualified health claim for nuts and heart disease] recommended that people eat 1.5 ounces of nuts per day — well above current consumption levels — so we need to encourage people to grab a handful of nuts every day."
In the first study presented at the Boston conference, researchers from Loma Linda University examined the effect of nut intake on the risk of metabolic syndrome in 803 adults. The results showed that a weekly one-ounce serving of tree nuts reduced the risk of the syndrome, which is a constellation of health conditions that collectively raise the risk of heart disease and diabetes.
The second study looked at 14,386 adults participating in the 2005-2010 National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys (NHANES). The results showed those who consumed more than 1/4 ounce of tree nuts per day tended to weigh less, have smaller waist sizes, lower blood pressure, and higher HDL “good” cholesterol levels than non-consumers.
The third study, by researchers from the University of Toronto and St. Michael's Hospital in Toronto, found people who consumed two ounces of nuts a day were better able to manage blood sugar and cholesterol levels than non-consumers, and reduce their overall risk of heart disease and diabetes.
"We found that nut consumption was associated with an increase in monounsaturated fatty acids [the good fats] in the blood, which was correlated with a decrease in total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol [the bad kind], blood pressure, 10-year coronary heart disease risk, HbA1c [a marker of blood sugar control over the previous three months] and fasting blood glucose," said Cyril Kendall, of the University of Toronto.
"Nut consumption was also found to increase LDL particle size, which is less damaging when it comes to heart disease risk."
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