In a study that gives new meaning to the expression “health nuts,” scientists have found people who eat tree nuts are less likely to develop heart disease, type 2 diabetes and the unhealthy condition known as “metabolic syndrome” than those who don’t.
The Louisiana State University study, published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition, tracked the health risk factors of people who eat nuts – including almonds, Brazil nuts, cashews, hazelnuts, macadamias, pecans, pine nuts, pistachios and walnuts – and compared them to individuals who avoid them.
For the study, researchers tracked 13,292 men and women participating in the 1999-2004 National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys (NHANES) conducted by federal officials to monitor Americans’ dietary habits and health risk factors.
They found people who eat about one-quarter ounce of nuts daily had higher levels of HDL “good” cholesterol and lower levels of blood pressure, blood sugar and C-reactive protein -- a marker for inflammation that can lead to a variety of chronic diseases including heart disease.
"One of the more interesting findings was the fact that tree nut consumers had lower body weight, as well as lower body mass index (BMI) and waist circumference compared to non-consumers," said lead researcher Carol O'Neil.
The study also found nut eaters generally had higher dietary intakes of fiber and monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats (the good fats), and lower intakes of carbohydrates, cholesterol and sodium than non-consumers.