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Consumption of tree nuts as snacks reduces metabolic syndrome risk in young adults: a randomized trial.

Sumislawski, K., A. Widmer, R.R. Suro, M.E. Robles, K. Lillegard, D. Olson, J.R. Koethe, H.J. Silver, 2023. Consumption of tree nuts as snacks reduces metabolic syndrome risk in young adults: a randomized trial. Nutrients. 15(24):5051. doi: 10.3390/nu15245051.

Metabolic syndrome (MetSx) and its chronic disease consequences are major public health concerns worldwide. Between-meal snacking may be a modifiable risk factor. We hypothesized that consuming tree nuts as snacks, versus typical carbohydrate snacks, would reduce risk for MetSx in young adults. A prospective, randomized, 16-week parallel-group diet intervention trial was conducted in 84 adults aged 22-36 with BMI 24.5 to 34.9 kg/m2 and ≥1 MetSx clinical risk factor. Tree nuts snacks (TNsnack) were matched to carbohydrate snacks (CHOsnack) for energy (kcal), protein, fiber, and sodium content as part of a 7-day eucaloric menu. Difference in change between groups was tested by analysis of covariance using general linear models. Multivariable linear regression modeling assessed main effects of TNsnack treatment and interactions between TNsnack and sex on MetSx score. Age, BMI, and year of study enrollment were included variables. There was a main effect of TNsnack on reducing waist circumference in females (mean difference: -2.20 ± 0.73 cm, p = 0.004) and a trend toward reduced visceral fat (-5.27 ± 13.05 cm2p = 0.06). TNsnack decreased blood insulin levels in males (-1.14 ± 1.41 mIU/L, p = 0.05) and multivariable modeling showed a main effect of TNsnack on insulin. Main effects of TNsnack on triglycerides and TG/HDL ratio were observed (p = 0.04 for both) with TG/HDL ratio reduced ~11%. A main effect of TNsnack (p = 0.04) and an interaction effect between TNsnack and sex (p < 0.001) on total MetSx score yielded 67% reduced MetSx score in TNsnack females and 42% reduced MetSx score in TNsnack males. To our knowledge, this is the first randomized parallel-arm study to investigate cardiometabolic responses to TNsnacks versus typical CHOsnacks among young adults at risk of MetSx. Our study suggests daily tree nut consumption reduces MetSx risk by improving waist circumference, lipid biomarkers, and/or insulin sensitivity-without requiring caloric restriction.