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Going Nuts for Diabetes Control

Diane Fennell

July 15, 2011

We’ve previously reported on research establishing the health benefits of nuts, which are well known for their high levels of heart-healthy fats, antioxidants (substances that help protect cells from oxidative damage), fiber, and other health-promoting nutrients. Now another study has come out indicating that replacing some carbohydrate foods with nuts each day has specific benefits relating to Type 2 diabetes, a condition that affects an estimated 26 million people in the United States.

Researchers at St. Michael’s University and the University of Toronto randomly assigned 117 people with Type 2 diabetes to one of three treatment groups for three months. One group was given roughly 2.5 ounces of a nut mixture each day, another group was given low-sugar, whole wheat muffins with a similar protein content to the nuts (but no healthful monounsaturated fatty acids) each day, and the last group received a half portion of both the nuts and the muffins daily. The nut mixture was composed of a combination of raw almonds, pistachios, walnuts, pecans, hazelnuts, peanuts, cashews, and macadamias.

Participants receiving the nut mixture had an average decrease in HbA1c (an indicator of blood glucose control) of 0.21% and also saw reductions in their low-density lipoprotein (LDL, or “bad”) cholesterol levels. Conversely, those receiving the muffin-and-nut mixture saw decreases in their LDL cholesterol level, but not in their HbA1c level, while those receiving the muffins did not see reductions in either category.

David Jenkins, MD, PhD, DSc, lead study author and a professor at the University of Toronto, noted that “Those receiving the full dose of nuts reduced their HbA1c by two-thirds of what the US Food and Drug Administration recognizes as being clinically meaningful for therapeutic agents. Furthermore, neither in the current study nor in previous reports has nut consumption been associated with weight gain. If anything, nuts appear to be well suited as part of weight-reducing diets… The study indicates that nuts can provide a specific food option for people with Type 2 diabetes wishing to reduce their carbohydrate intake.”

To learn more about the research, read the articles “Eating Nuts Daily Could Help Control Type 2 Diabetes and Prevent Complications, Study Suggests” “Nuts Instead of Carbs May Be Beneficial in Diabetes” or see the study’s abstract in Diabetes Care.

Want to replace some of the refined carbohydrates in your meal plan with nuts? Then try this hot and spicy nut recipe!

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