Eating Nuts May Reduce Type-2 Diabetes Risk

Two almondsPeople who consume nuts at least five times a week may be almost half as likely to develop type-2 diabetes as infrequent nut eaters according to the results of a recent study.

The study was published in The Journal of the American Medical Association in November 2002 by American researchers at the Department of Nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health. The authors analyzed data on 83,818 women which was collected from the Nurses Health Study (NHS) over a 16 year period from 1980 to 1996.

Around 35% of the study participants reported to consume nuts rarely or never, 36% consumed nuts less than once a week, 24% consumed them between 1 and 4 times a week, and the remaining 5% consumed nuts 5 or more times a week. Nut consumption was defined as one 28g serving of nuts and included peanuts and peanut butter (peanuts are technically classified as a legume).

The researchers found that those who consumed nuts regularly tended to have a lower body mass index (BMI), were more likely to smoke, consumed more fiber, magnesium, and polyunsaturated fat and had a higher daily energy intake.

Frequent nut consumption was associated with a much lower risk of type-2 diabetes. When compared to those who consumed nuts rarely or never, those who consumed nuts 5 or more times a week were 45% less likely to develop diabetes and those who consumed nuts between 1 and 4 times a week were 31% less likely to develop type-2 diabetes. Even after the results were adjusted for BMI, consuming nuts 5 or more times a week still reduced the risk of type-2 diabetes by 26%.

Researchers believe that it is the type of fats contained in nuts that may explain the beneficial effects on diabetes. Nuts tend to be high in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats but contain relatively low amounts of saturated fats. Several studies have linked diets high in saturated fats with an increased likelihood of developing type-2 diabetes.

Many people avoid nuts because they are concerned that the high energy and fat content of nuts may lead to weight gain and an increased risk of heart disease and other weight related problems. This particular study found that the opposite is the case and in fact nut consumption may actually reduce BMI.

Nuts may also reduce the risk of heart disease according to some studies. This study found that people who consumed nuts more than 4 times a week had a 48% reduction in fatal CHD events compared to those who consumed nuts less than once a week. Reducing heart disease risk is important for diabetics because diabetes and heart disease are so strongly related.