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Nuts eaten daily could help control type 2 diabetes

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Type 2 diabetes and nuts

A daily handful of nuts could prevent diabetes complications. Eating just a portion of nuts each day could not only help control type 2 diabetes, but also help prevent complications for those affected with the disease.

The finding comes from researchers at St. Michael's Hospital and the University of Toronto who suggest individuals with type 2 diabetes replace carbohydrates in the diet with 2 ounces of nuts each day to help control cholesterol levels, which in turn reduces the risk of cardiovascular.

Dr. David Jenkins (University of Toronto Department of Nutritional Sciences; St. Michael's Hospital Risk Factor Modification Centre says eating nuts "may be used as part of a strategy to improve diabetes control without weight gain."

In the study, led by Jenkins, individuals with diabetes were given a diet consisting of raw almonds, pistachios, walnuts, pecans, hazelnuts, peanuts, cashews, and macadamias. Another group was given a mixture of muffins and nuts.

In each case, adding raw, dry or roasted; unsalted nuts to the diet showed benefits for the diabetics studied.

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The group given almonds, pistachios or other nuts showed greatest improvements in diabetes control - measured by hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c) testing that provides an overall picture of blood sugar control over a period of several months. They also experienced lower ‘bad’ or LDL cholesterol levels.

The group given a mixture of muffins and nuts benefited from lower LDL cholesterol levels, but not glucose control.

Jenkins said the results for blood sugar controls were substantial:

"Those receiving the full dose of nuts reduced their HbA1c [the long-term marker of glycemic control] by two-thirds of what the U.S. 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.”

Carbohydrates can increase blood sugar levels for diabetics, in addition to causing weight gain. The finding shows nuts could be a healthy carbohydrate replacement for individuals living with type 2 diabetes. Two ounces of nuts a day – dry, roasted or raw and unsalted – has also been shown to help individuals without type 2 diabetes and are considered a ‘heart healthy snack.

Diabetes Care: doi: 10.2337/dc11-0338
"Nuts as a Replacement for Carbohydrates in the Diabetic Diet"
David J.A. Jenkins, MD; et al

Updated July 31, 2014