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Path to Type 2 Diabetes May Be Paused by Eating Two Types of Nuts

Eating pistachio nuts and almonds could help protect against developing type 2 diabetes in individuals who are already at high risk…. 

At the 2014 European Congress on Obesity, researchers from Spain and the United States reported on the potential benefits of pistachio nuts and almonds.

Monica Bulló, MD, of the human nutrition unit at Virgili University in Reus, Spain, conducted a study containing 49 overweight or obese prediabetic patients. They were randomly assigned to a control diet or a pistachio diet for a period of four months. The pistachio diet consisted of patients eating 57 grams of pistachio daily, or around a "handful" of nuts, as Dr. Bulló would say. The control diet replaced pistachios with olive oil. The amount of saturated fatty acids and cholesterol content in both the control and pistachio diets did not differ. The study contained a two-week washout period before crossing over to the alternative diet for another period of four months, in hopes of allowing the individuals to effectively act as their own controls. Depending on the weight of the patient the amount of calories varied from 1900 to 2500 per day. At baseline and then monthly, anthropometric measurements and blood pressure was measured. Additionally, the patients’ physical activity was assessed. At the beginning and end of each intervention period blood samples were collected to observe the hemostatic, inflammatory, oxidative, and related metabolic risk markers. Her study showed that 57 grams of pistachios daily for four months significantly reduced fasting glucose, insulin, and insulin resistance. Additionally, after eating the nuts there was no change in body weight. Dr. Bulló concluded, "Regular consumption of pistachios could decrease insulin resistance, thus suggesting a potential protective role for pistachio consumption against development of type 2 diabetes."

Sze Yen Tan, PhD, of department of nutrition science at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana, presented a poster of another trial, which consisted of 137 adults who presented with an elevated risk for diabetes. Patients were randomized into one of three groups to consume 43 grams of almonds (approximately 250 calories) per day for a period of four weeks. The almonds were given with meals — breakfast or lunch, or as a morning or afternoon snack, or no almonds were given. The study showed those who ate almonds as a snack felt less hungry and fuller compared to those who did not eat them. In addition to, snacking on almonds led to lower blood glucose levels. Dr. Tan concluded, "Inclusion of 43 grams of almonds into a daily diet, especially as snacks, may help to moderate glycemia without promoting weight gain."

Practice Pearls:
  • The first study showed that 57 grams of pistachios daily for four months significantly reduced fasting glucose, insulin, and insulin resistance, for those with prediabetes.
  • In the second study, it was concluded that, "Inclusion of 43 grams of almonds into a daily diet, may help to moderate glycemia without promoting weight gain."
  • Both studies showed those who ate nuts felt less hungry and fuller than those who did not. Furthermore, those who ate nuts had lower postprandial blood glucose levels, and experienced no weight gain.

2014 European Congress on Obesity. Abstract T5:OS2.3, presented May 31, 2014.