New Study Shows Tree Nuts May Play an Important Role in the Health of People with Type 2 Diabetes: New Findings Published in Diabetes Care

 DAVIS, CA, June 29, 2011 – The largest study to date on nuts and diabetes was published today in Diabetes Care, showing that approximately two ounces of nuts a day, as a replacement for carbohydrate foods, can improve glycemic control and blood lipids in those with type 2 diabetes.

 Researchers from the University of Toronto and St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto, Canada, found that  tree nuts (almonds, Brazils, cashews, hazelnuts, pecans, pine nuts, pistachios, macadamias and walnuts) and peanuts improved blood lipid levels and blood sugar levels in individuals with non-insulin dependent diabetes.

The study was a 3-month parallel design with 117 non-insulin dependent adults with diabetes (men and women with a mean age of 62 years) who were all being treated with oral hypoglycemic medications. The subjects were randomized to one of three diets for three months. The first diet included a supplement of 75g (~2½ ounces or ½ cup) of mixed nuts; the second diet included 38g (~1⅓ ounces or ¼ cup) of mixed nuts and half portion of muffins; and the third diet contained a full portion of muffins.  Each supplement provided approximately 475 calories per 2,000 calorie diet. All of the diets contained roughly the same number of calories but the nuts provided more unsaturated (i.e. healthy) fat and less carbohydrate.

The goal of the study was to determine if nuts improve glycemic control in non-insulin dependent diabetes, as assessed by HbA1c (a marker of blood sugar control over the previous three months) and to ascertain whether these outcomes relate to improvements in cardiovascular health.

“Our findings revealed that the full dose nut group had significantly reduced LDL and total cholesterol levels compared to the full dose muffin group,” stated David Jenkins, MD, PhD, DSc, with the University of Toronto and St. Michael’s Hospital. “And, there was a significant reduction in HbA1c in the full dose nuts compared to the other two diets.”

 According to Cyril Kendall, Ph.D., co-investigator of the study, “The improvements in blood glucose control that can be achieved by dietary and lifestyle changes are significant and could make a substantial contribution to the treatment of those with Type 2 diabetes.  Nuts are a healthy and flavorful option for individuals with diabetes.”

Numerous studies have shown that consuming tree nuts may reduce the risk of heart disease. In 2003 tree nuts received a qualified health claim from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) which states, “Scientific evidence suggests but does not prove that eating 1.5 ounces per day of most nuts, as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol, may reduce the risk of heart disease.”  Interestingly, individuals with Type 2 diabetes have a 2-4 fold higher risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD) compared with nondiabetic individuals of similar age, sex and ethnicity.

 According to Maureen Ternus, M.S., R.D., Executive Director of the International Tree Nut Council Nutrition Research & Education Foundation (INC NREF), “While we’ve known for years that eating nuts every day can help reduce the risk for heart disease, these new findings show that consuming nuts may now be helpful in controlling Type 2 diabetes as well.” 

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Funding Source: David Jenkins, MD, PhD, DSc, receives salary and chair support from the Canadian Federal Government under the Canada Research Chairs’ Program. The study was funded by the International Tree Nut Council Nutrition Research & Education Foundation.