Type 2 diabetes can be prevented through moderate walnut intake, a recent study has shown.
The findings were published on Monday, November 23, in the journal BMJ Open Diabetes Research & Care, following a randomized controlled trial funded by the California Walnut Commission.
Experts led by Dr. David Katz, director of the Yale-Griffin Prevention Research Center in Derby, Connecticut, wanted to analyze the effects of consuming a handful of walnuts on a daily basis.
While prior studies had revealed that these snacks can be extremely nutritious, satiating and beneficial for cardiovascular health, they had also pointed out their high caloric value. Therefore, throughout this new experiment the purpose was to see if consuming walnuts regularly would lead to weight gain.
A group of 81 women and 31 men, aged between 25 and 75, participated in the trial. They had been selected based on a single criterion: the fact that they all had a high likelihood of developing type 2 diabetes.
In the experiment, the subjects were first divided into 2 groups: some of them benefited from dietary advice recommending them to reduce their calorie intake, while the rest weren’t asked to follow such guidelines.
Afterwards, the two categories were divided once more: some subjects from each group were required to consume 2 ounces (56 grams ) of walnuts every day, whereas others weren’t told to include this type of food in their daily diet.
The initial experiment unfolded across a period of 6 months, which was followed by a 12-week pause, after which every individual was assigned to do the opposite of what they had done before.
Namely, subjects who had eaten walnuts were asked to stop that practice, while others who hadn’t consumed such snacks were required to have them on a daily basis, for another 6 months.
Throughout the study, experts monitored each participant’s body mass index, waist circumference, blood pressure, lipid profile, glucose levels, blood vessel function (through a Doppler ultrasound) and overall diet quality.
It was determined that those who had incorporated walnuts into their daily food intake had improved their blood vessel function, and had also been eating much more healthily, by removing harmful foods from their diets.
This was noticed even among participants who hadn’t been advised to limit the number of calories consumed on a daily basis, probably because being included in such a study had made them more health-conscious.
Moreover, subjects who had been eating walnuts every day had also lowered their LDL (“bad”) cholesterol levels, thus improving their lipid profile.
As a result, they faced a much lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes, which is normally triggered by factors such as high LDL and abnormal blood flow through blood vessels.
On the other hand, it must be noted that body fat became more elevated among those who had consumed walnuts without reducing their overall calorie intake.
This change however wasn’t detected among walnut eaters who had been counseled to be more careful about the amounts of food they had on a daily basis. Actually, aside from the fact that they hadn’t gained extra weight, they had also experienced a significant reduction in their waist circumference.
Across all participants, glucose levels grew slightly when walnuts were added, whereas HDL “good” cholesterol levels remained virtually unchanged.
Based on these findings, study authors believe that moderate walnut consumption could be beneficial when included as part of a daily diet, especially when individuals reduce their calorie intake in order to make room for this addition.
It is hoped that a follow-up study will be conducted, so as to test these beneficial effects more carefully, especially among those who are trying to get slimmer.
Meanwhile, Anita Mirchandani of the New York State Academy of Nutrition has warned that just an ounce of walnuts provides 18 grams of fat, even though these are mostly represented by Omega-3 heart-healthy fatty acids (polyunsaturated).
For a daily food intake corresponding to 1,800 calories, it’s recommended to consume just around 40 to 70 grams of fat, so having 2 or 3 ounces of walnuts would mean removing any other fat sources from the diet.
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