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Nuts Good for Some With Diabetes

Study Shows Daily Serving of Nuts Improves Blood Sugar in Type 2 Diabetes

By Bill Hendrick
WebMD Health News

Reviewed By Laura J. Martin, MD

July 8, 2011 -- Eating about 2 ounces of nuts daily in place of carbohydrates may be beneficial to people with type 2 diabetes by lowering bad cholesterol levels and improving blood sugar control, a new study shows.

“There are two important factors in caring for diabetes: blood sugar control and heart health,” study researcher Cyril W.C. Kendall, PhD, of the University of Toronto, says in a news release.

Nut Study Design

The study involved 117 people with type 2 diabetes who were randomly assigned to one of three groups. One group's members ate about 2 ounces of mixed nuts daily, another a healthy muffin, and the third half nuts and half muffin.

Researchers say those whose diet included 2 ounces of nuts showed better results after three months in both blood sugar and LDL "bad" cholesterol levels than participants in the other two groups.

The nuts consisted of a mixture of unsalted and mostly raw almonds, pistachios, walnuts, pecans, hazelnuts, peanuts, cashews, and macadamias.

The muffin was concocted to be a healthy whole wheat product, sweetened with apple concentrate but with no sugar added. The muffins had similar protein content to the nuts from the addition of egg white and skim milk powder. Calories from monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs) in the nuts were the same as the carbohydrate calories in the muffin, the researchers write.

During the three-month study, participants were asked to maintain their oral diabetes medications.

Blood Sugar Improvement

The main outcome researchers looked for was change in a marker of blood sugar control called HbA1c.

Kendall described the results of the study as “a very exciting and promising finding about the treatment” of type 2 diabetes.

The researchers write that the reduction in the HbA1c level was significantly more in those in the nuts-only group than participants in the other groups.

The reduction of LDL "bad" cholesterol was also significantly greater in those who ate 2 ounces of nuts compared with the group eating muffins.

“We conclude that mixed, unsalted, raw, or dry-roasted nuts have benefits for both blood glucose control and blood lipids and may be used to increase vegetable oil and protein intake in the diets of type 2 diabetic patients as part of a strategy to improve diabetes control without weight gain,” the researchers write.

The study is published in the August issue of Diabetes Care.

One of the supporters of the study was the International Tree Nut Council Nutrition Research and Education Foundation, which represents almonds, Brazil nuts, cashews, hazelnuts, macadamias, pecans, pine nuts, pistachios, and walnuts, and also the Peanut Institute.

Both Kendall and David J.A. Jenkins, MD, also of the University of Toronto and author of the study, acknowledged receiving honoraria from the Almond Board of California, the International Tree Nut Council Nutrition Research and Education Foundation, and Unilever Canada.

SOURCES:

News release, Western Pistachio Association.

Jenkins, J. Diabetes Care, August 2011; vol 34.

© 2011 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved.



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