Walnuts Every Day May Help Lower Risk Of Type 2 Diabetes

First Posted: Nov 27, 2015 08:26 PM EST

A daily handful of walnuts may help reduce risk factors associated with type 2 diabetes, according to a recent study.

Researchers found that participants given walnuts every day for six months saw decreased levels of "bad" (LDL) cholesterol and improved blood vessel function when compared to those who did not eat walnuts during the study period--both factors that are linked to type 2 diabetes.

"Walnuts are uniquely nutritious, so they likely confer benefits that other nuts do not," lead study author David Katz, MD, of the Yale University School of Medicine, said in a news release. "In general, nut consumption has been associated with health benefit, including reduction in all-cause mortality, but few nuts have been studied in isolation - mostly walnuts and almonds, and to a lesser extent, pistachios."

During the study, 31 men and 81 women between the ages of 25 and 75 were examined--all of whom were at a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes. The participants were randomly assigned to receive dietary counseling to curb caloric intake or did not receive any information regarding changes in their diet. Lastly, participants were then asked to eat 2 ounces of walnuts daily along with any added instructions.

At the end of six months, there was a 12-week break in which the groups shifted and the one that previously received instructions to change their diet so they ate a lower amount of calories no longer did and vice versa.

"Our findings persisted after controlling for age, gender, caloric intake, fiber intake, monounsaturated fatty acid intake, polyunsaturated fatty acid intake, omega-3 intake, and physical activity level. Compared with most other nuts, walnuts have a higher content of polyunsaturated fatty acids."

The findings revealed that increased nut consumption, overall, was associated with a lower risk of type 2 diabetes, regardless of calorie restrictions. Though blood glucose tended to rise notwithstanding dietary advice, waist circumference reduced in those who ate walnuts who also received advice on calorie restriction. 

Katz noted that people seemed to "do pretty well" and did not gain weight considerably even without being told to make room for the calories. "[But] you may be able to augment those benefits if you do provide some counseling about how to make room for those calories," he added.

He reminded that in the walnut-rich diet group, participants without calorie restriction counseling had increased body fat, compared to those who were counseled about lowering calorie consumption.

The study is published in the journal BMJ Open Diabetes Research & Care.

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