Nuts Linked With Lower Diabetes, Heart Disease Risks: Study

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People who choose nuts as their snack of choice are doing their health a benefit, new research suggests.

A recent study shows that people who regularly eat tree nuts -- including almonds, macadamias, pistachios, walnuts and cashews -- also have lower risks for Type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome and heart disease.

The researchers from Louisiana State University Agricultural Center found that nut consumption is linked with lower levels of an inflammation marker called C-reactive protein (which is associated with heart disease and other chronic conditions) and higher levels of the "good" kind of cholesterol.

In addition, people who regularly ate the tree nuts had lower body mass indexes (BMI, a ratio of height to weight) than people who didn't regularly eat nuts, the study said.

It should be noted that the study was funded by the nonprofit International Tree Nut Council Nutrition Research & Education Foundation. It appeared recently in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition.

The research included 13,292 adults whose diets were analyzed through the National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys between 1999 and 2004. The researchers considered a "tree nut consumer" as someone who ate at least a quarter of an ounce of nuts a day. The researchers found that about 18.6 percent of people between ages 19 and 50 and about 21 percent of people ages 51 and older were regular nut consumers.

The researchers found that the prevalence of metabolic syndrome among people who regularly consumed the nuts was 5 percent lower than those who didn't consume the nuts. (Metabolic syndrome is known to be a risk factor for conditions like heart disease and diabetes.)

This is certainly not the first evidence linking nut consumption with body benefits. Last year, a Spanish study showed that, particularly among people with metabolic syndrome, eating an ounce of nuts (raw walnuts, almonds and hazelnuts, all with the peels on) a day is linked with higher levels of serotonin, reported Shape Magazine. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that is linked with feeling happy.

And last year, Reuters reported on a study in the journal Diabetes Care that showed that swapping out carbs for a half-cup of nuts could help people with Type 2 diabetes to decrease their blood sugar and "bad" cholesterol levels.

The Mayo Clinic reported that nuts have powers to lower "bad" cholesterol levels, and eating them could even lower the risk of blood clots linked with heart attack. That's because nuts contain "good" fats, omega-3 fatty acids, cholesterol-lowering fiber and plant sterols, and vitamin E (which could help keep arteries clear of plaque), according to the Mayo Clinic.

Specifically, walnuts may have the highest concentration of omega-3 fatty acids compared with all the other nuts; omega-3 fatty acids have anti-inflammatory effects, Joy Bauer, NBC's Today Show nutritionist, told Everyday Health.

But even though nuts have health benefits, that doesn't mean you can go hog-wild with your portions. Diet and fitness expert Dr. Melina Jampolis told CNN that people should not eat more than a quarter of a cup of nuts or seeds a day, since they have so many calories from fat.

"Eating unlimited amounts can easily add an extra several hundred calories a day to your diet, which could lead to weight gain and increased cholesterol levels," Jampolis told CNN.

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