A new U.S. study from Loma Linda University adds to growing evidence that nuts - once considered too fattening to be healthy - can help keep weight down, in addition to offering other health benefits.
Researchers found that study participants who ate the most nuts - such as almonds, Brazil nuts, pistachios and walnuts - were between up to 46 percent less likely to be obese than those who ate the fewest tree nuts.
People who ate the most nuts were also less likely to have a cluster of risk factors known as metabolic syndrome, which is tied to increased risk of heart disease and diabetes.
In another recent study, researchers found that people who reported eating the most nuts were less likely to die over a 24-year period than those who ate the fewest nuts.
Nuts are high in unsaturated fat, which is known as a "good" fat compared to the saturated fat found in animal products. The high protein content of nuts may also lead people to feel fuller and eat less unhealthy foods. They also contain of host of other nutrients and plant chemicals that are beneficial to health.
For the new study, the researchers used data on the diets of 803 Seventh-day Adventist men and women in the U.S. who were already enrolled in another study.
Overall, those who ate a lot of tree nuts - about half an ounce (equivalent to 12 almonds or 7 walnut halves) per day - were just a little over normal weight, on average, compared to those who ate few or no nuts and were seriously overweight or obese.
People in the study who ate the most nuts averaged BMIs of about 27 while those who ate the least - less than 5 grams of tree nuts per day - averaged BMIs of 29 to 30. A normal body mass index (BMI) - a measure of weight in relation to height - for an adult falls between 18.5 and 24.9. Overweight people have BMIs between 25 and 29.9 and a BMI of 30 or more is considered obese.
The researchers also found that one third of the participants in the study had metabolic syndrome, which is defined as having three or more conditions associated with heart disease and diabetes risk. (Those include being obese, having high blood pressure and high cholesterol and having a large waistline).
For every one-ounce serving of tree nuts consumed per week, however, a person's risk of having metabolic syndrome dropped by 7 percent.
Experts say there is a large body of evidence that nuts are a healthful food choice if consumed in reasonable amounts.
Source: PLOS ONE, online January 8, 2014.
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