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Handful of Nuts Every
Week May Ward Off Diabetes

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Women who enjoy an occasional handful of almonds or walnuts or a serving of peanut butter may have a lower risk for developing type 2 diabetes than women who rarely eat such food, Harvard researchers report in a study released Tuesday.

Women who ate about 5 ounces of nuts a week had a diabetes risk 27% lower than women who never or rarely ate nuts, according to the report in the November 27th issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association. Women who ate between 1 ounce and 4 ounces of nuts a week had a 16% lower risk, even when they had other diabetes risk factors.

While more research is needed to confirm the findings, the study suggests that unsaturated fats found in nuts may improve the body's ability to use insulin and regulate blood glucose (sugar). Previous research has shown that eating nuts may be associated with a lower risk of heart disease, which is also affected by insulin and blood sugar control.

However, the authors recommend that nuts, which are high in fat, be used as a substitute for other foods such as certain types of meat or refined grain products. Adding calories to the diet makes weight gain more likely, which can raise the risk of both type 2 diabetes and heart disease, they note.

"To avoid increasing caloric intake, regular nut consumption can be recommended as a replacement for consumption of refined grain products or red or processed meats," conclude Dr. Rui Jiang from Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, Massachusetts, and colleagues.

Their study included nearly 84,000 female nurses living in the US, who filled out several questionnaires about their diet over 16 years. The women ranged from 34 to 59 years old when the study began, and had no history of diabetes, heart disease or cancer.

According to the results, women who ate the most 1-ounce servings of nuts and peanut butter were the least likely to develop type 2 diabetes. For instance, women who reported never or rarely eating these foods had no change in risk, while those who ate at least 5 1-ounce servings of nuts or peanut butter weekly cut their risk by at least 20%.

Women who included between 1-4 ounces of nuts in their weekly diet reduced their diabetes risk by 16%, and those who reported eating less than 1 ounce of nuts a week had an 8% lower risk for the disease.

Although women who consumed more nuts tended to weigh less, exercise more and smoke less than their peers who ate fewer servings of nuts, the association between nuts and diabetes risk remained regardless of body mass index (BMI), smoking and alcohol intake.

"Our data...support potential benefits of increasing nut consumption in reducing type 2 diabetes risk," the study concludes.

Type 2 diabetes, the most common form of the disease, is often linked to obesity. Once seen almost exclusively in older adults, the disease is on the rise among adults and children in the US. Diabetes increases the risk of blindness, amputation, kidney failure, nerve damage and heart disease.

The study was funded by the National Institutes of Health.

SOURCE: Journal of the American Medical Association 2002;288:2554-2560.


Reference Source 89

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