Going Nuts for Diabetes Control

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.

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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!

  • pmohandas

    thanks for the information. please post such important information for people like us who will be thankful to you to know more about diabetes care

  • Steve Parker, M.D.

    Nuts may also confer particular benefits in terms of reduced heart disease. Thanks for sharing this new research data.

    -Steve

  • T.P.

    Love nuts – unfortunately also have diverticulosis and not supposed to eat them. =(

  • David Dutton

    This study looks like it was done only with Type 2 – any information of effects on Type 1’s?

  • John_C

    Nuts are good!

    However adding any kind of muffins to your diabetic diet will raise your HbA1c… Puts on weight too.
    Actual clinical trial = ME

  • Amy C.

    I have Type 1 and always notice a decrease in blood sugar levels when I’ve eaten pistachios…(the ones in the shell).

  • Donna Flor

    Hi, I have been a type 2 diabetic for over 20+yrs.I to have metabolic syndrome I have a heart condition along with sleep apnea and fibromyalgia.
    I have had so much difficulty trying to control my blood sugar.I am on Novolog and Lantus in the evening i have a sliding scale to use with the Novolog but that doesn’t even seem to be working.
    I have switched to whole grain products and I grill all my meats.I exsercize daily on my treadmill,and I also do some cardio before I get on the treadmill.
    I have not been successful at getting my sugar down to a reasonable level.I am concerned at having another heart attack at such high numbers.I am doing everything I know to help myself and I am working with a diabetes educator to help me.I have had repeated bladder infections and i have problems ridding myself of the infection.Do you have any other ideas?I am on Novolog 3 times a day and 50 units of Lantus at bedtime.I am very frustrated.
    Donna Flor

  • John Corcione

    Okay so how to we get this mixture of nuts. Are these pre packaged does one need to purchase all the nuts separately? Roughly how long would it take for A1C levels to lower? How many servings per day?

  • Meichi

    Is there a particular kind of nuts that is most beneficial in reducing A1C or lower LDL?

  • punkies

    So, does a person need to take a combination of the nuts, or can just one type of nut be eaten to get the lowered HBA1C result?

    Also, how often do they need to be eaten (daily?) and in what quantity?

    How long did the study last?

    Please give more info in the future, as partial information does a person absolutely no good, without knowing the full information.

    Thanks.

  • punkies

    To correct my prior comment, I re-read the article and it did state that the study was for 3 months….but to comment further, will the A1C keep going lower if the nuts are eaten on a regular basis, way beyond the 3 month study?

    That would be great if nuts would by the healthier option for long term blood sugar control.

  • Diane Fennell

    Hi punkies,

    Thanks for your comments and questions. As I noted in the article, the group that saw the decrease in A1C ate roughly 2.5 ounces daily of a combination of raw almonds, pistachios, walnuts, pecans, hazelnuts, peanuts, cashews, and macadamias. I’m afraid that there’s currently not any data on whether A1C levels could be further reduced by eating nuts beyond the three-month study period, but it is an interesting avenue of research, and one that scientists will hopefully explore further.

    Thanks for your interest in DiabetesSelfManagement.com!

    Sincerely,
    Diane Fennell
    Web Editor

  • Shirleyannie

    I’m Type 2 diabetic. Need all the info I can get. Thanks for keeping up.

  • Maria Huff

    Along time ago I had a recipe for a cashew nut loaf it was wonderful .
    I know it had sage and ground cashews and nutrional yeast but can’t rember the ratio and what else maybe onion and and eggs I would love to find that recipe .

  • J.J. Batavia

    Very nice information.Thanks

  • Ann M

    Diane, Very interesting article. My husband has been a Type II Diabetic for 30 years. He still takes oral meds and he does eat approximately three ounces of mixed nuts after lunch every day. His A1C is always where our Doctor likes it.

  • Audrey M.

    I am a type 2 Diabetic and I also have Diverticulitis. Is there any one nut that is better for me than any other?

  • Gene Potzger

    This is in response to Donna Flor’s comments. My wife (age 68)and I (age 71) are type 2 diabetics for 10+ years and she has gone through the same situation described in Donna’s comments. After changing docs last year, she was taken off insulin and put on 10mg of Glyburide in the AM & PM along with 1000mg of Metformin in the AM & PM. Her blood sugar readings dropped from 300+ to 80-160 range and her A1c readings dropped from 11+ to 7.8. Last month her doc put her on 10 units of Lantus in the AM to see if her A1c level could be lowered.
    I am also taking 10mg of Glyburide twice a day and 500mg of Metformin twice a day. No insulin! Blood sugar readings range from 70 to 125 and the last A1c reading was 7.2. We are nut eaters but not every day. We are going to add 2.5 oz and see if the readings can be lowered.

  • Elizabeth Ferguson

    Re: T.P. posting – I have diverticulosis and my gastro doc said to eat high fiber anything including nuts and seeds. I rarely have a problem. Years ago I stopped eating nuts for a while and noticed changes w/A1c and lipid readings. Everyone said too much fat. I went back to eating nuts and things returned to normal.

  • miss kitty 2

    Does this study also work for insulin dependent PWDs? As it stands I eat 2x the numver od rgew nut mixture stated in the study.

  • Gail Levin

    I don’t usually comment on articles I read, but this one interests me. Like many others making comments, I wish to know if there is anyplace I could get a mixture like this already made, or do I have to find somewhere to buy all these (raw I believe) and put them together at the required quantity myself.I enjoy reading the comments, but there are no answers given and that frustrates me terribly!!

  • Diane Fennell

    Hello Ms. Levin,

    Thank you for your question. According to the text of the study, the combination of nuts used for the research consisted of “a mixture of unsalted and mostly raw almonds, pistachios, walnuts, pecans, hazelnuts, peanuts, cashews, and macadamias;” unfortunately, no information is given regarding the exact proportions of these nuts in the mixture.

    A search online did not yield any premixed combinations containing all of these types of nuts, so the best bet for creating a nut mixture similar to the one used in the study would probably be to either purchase the nuts separately and then mix them together or to purchase some of the nuts in a commonly found premixed combination (almonds, pistachios, and cashews, for instance) and then supplement this mixture with the other nuts.

    Be sure to speak to your health-care provider before adding a nut mixture into your meal plan to ensure that it is appropriate for you and to discuss any changes in medicine that might be required.

    Thanks for your interest in DiabetesSelfManagement.com!

    Sincerely,
    Diane Fennell
    Web Editor

  • Ella Moore

    I have recently been dianosed with type 2. I have been snacking on nuts instead of othe harmful snacks. I am pleased to know that my switch was a good source and not a bad one. Thank you for clearing that on your website…

    Sincerely, Ella Moore