Women who enjoy an occasional handful of almonds or walnuts or a tablespoon of peanut butter may have a lower risk for developing type 2 diabetes than women who rarely eat such food, Harvard researchers reported last week.
Women who ate about 5 ounces of nuts a week had a diabetes risk 27% lower than women who never or rarely ate nuts. 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.
The study suggests that unsaturated fats found in nuts may improve the body's ability to use insulin and regulate blood 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.
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%.
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.
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