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Why People With Type 2 Diabetes Should Go Nuts

Nuts for type 2 diabetes

Having type 2 diabetes can be a challenge, and some people feel overwhelmed by the dietary and lifestyle recommendations associated with the disease. In response to that challenge, here are some reasons why people with type 2 diabetes should go nuts—and by that I mean include nuts in their diet as a way to fight and prevent the disease.

Why are nuts important for type 2 diabetes?

If you have type 2 diabetes, you probably already know that it is largely a disease of lifestyle, and that diet plays a critical role in fighting and managing the condition. Knowing what to eat, when to eat, and what not to eat are important.

One type of food that has garnered some scientific attention is nuts; or more precisely, nuts and seeds, because many of the foods people commonly refer to as nuts are actually seeds, such as almonds, hazel nuts, pine nuts, and walnuts. However, for our purposes (and for the majority of researchers as well), “nuts” refers to seeds that most people think are nuts, and actual nuts (e.g., pecans).

A review in the Journal of Research in Medical Sciences reported on 58 studies that involved diabetes and various diets, such as DASH (Dietary Approach to Stop Hypertension), Mediterranean, Western, Unhealthy, and others). The authors found that diets associated with high fiber were associated with a lower risk of high blood sugar levels.

Specifically, they reported that a “higher intake of vegetables, fruits, nuts, whole grains, and lower intake of red meat could reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes mellitus.” Although this study did not single out nuts, the food group was included in the list of beneficial foods to enjoy.

A more recent article, appearing in Advances in Nutrition (2013), discussed the benefits of magnesium in the prevention of disease and overall health. Notably, magnesium plays a critical role in heart health, glucose and insulin metabolism, neuromuscular conduction, muscle contractions, and blood pressure.

The study’s author explained that low levels of magnesium have been associated with the development of type 2 diabetes, while consuming foods rich in the mineral, including nuts, whole grains, and legumes, may have a preventive effect.

Now let’s get down to the nitty gritty of nuts and type 2 diabetes. In a study appearing in the Journal of Nutrition, Harvard School of Public Health experts explained the importance of walnuts in type 2 diabetes in women.

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The study is quick to point out that walnuts are a rich source of polyunsaturated fatty acids, substances that have been shown to improve a variety of cardiometabolic risk factors. Authors reported on the findings of two large studies that included nearly 140,000 women free of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease at the start of the study and looked at their intake of walnuts.

After reviewing data from ten years of follow-up, the authors reported that

  • Eating walnuts was associated with a lower risk of type 2 diabetes
  • Individuals who consumed 1 to 3 servings of walnuts per month had a 7 percent lower risk of type 2 diabetes
  • People who ate 1 serving per week of walnuts had a 19 percent lower risk of the disease
  • Those who consumed at least 2 servings per week of walnuts had a 24 percent lower risk of type 2 diabetes
  • Eating other nuts and tree nuts was also associated with a lower risk of type 2 diabetes, and the associations were mostly explained by body mass index

The authors concluded that their findings suggested “higher walnut consumption is associated with a significantly lower risk of type 2 diabetes in women.”

Yet one more study provides the cherry (or the nuts) on the top of the sundae. A report in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition in 2011 provided the results of the association between nut consumption and a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and metabolic syndrome in adults in the National Health and Nutrition Evaluation Study 1999-2004.

Reviewers analyzed nutritional information (specifically, nut consumption) from more than 13,000 adults. Approximately 20 percent of the participants in the study said they ate nuts.

Compared with people who did not eat nuts, those who did had:

The reviewers concluded that eating nuts “was associated with a decreased prevalence of selected risk factors for cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and MetS [metabolic syndrome].” These and other studies provide convincing evidence to support why people with type 2 diabetes should eat nuts.

Maghsoudi Z, Azadbakht L. How dietary patterns could have a role in prevention, progression, or management of diabetes mellitus? Review on the current evidence. Journal of Research in Medical Sciences 2012 Jul; 17(7): 694-709
O’Neil CE et al. Nut consumption is associated with decreased health risk factors for cardiovascular disease and metabolic syndrome in U.S. adults: NHANES 1999-2004. Journal of the American College of Nutrition 2011 Dec; 30(6): 502-10
Pan A et al. Walnut consumption in associate with lower risk of type 2 diabetes in women. Journal of Nutrition 2013 Apr; 143(4): 512-18
Volpe SL. Magnesium in disease prevention and overall health. Advances in Nutrition 2013 May 1; 4(3): 378-S83S

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