Nuts may aid diabetes control

Replacing a daily muffin with a handful or two of nuts may help diabetics control their blood glucose and cholesterol levels, a new study suggests.

In contrast, no such improvements were seen among people who swapped their normal carbs for a daily whole-wheat muffin.

For the study, published in Diabetes Care online, Dr Cyril W.C. Kendall of the University of Toronto in Canada and colleagues randomly assigned 117 adults with type 2 diabetes to one of three groups, one group was given unsalted mixed nuts and told to eat about a half-cup instead of some of their usual carbs, a second group replaced their normal carbs with healthy whole-wheat muffins with no added sugar.

The third group went on a half-nut/ half-muffin regimen.

Study put to test

The full-nut group ate, on average, about two half cups of nuts per day, which totalled roughly 1995kJ. After three months, the researchers found, the full-nut group showed a 0.2% dip in their average haemoglobin A1C level.

The change was small, and just shy, Dr Kendall said, of what's considered a clinically significant improvement in blood sugar control.

But, he added, people in the study were already on diabetes medication and typically had good blood glucose control. "So we're seeing a benefit over and above what they were achieving with medication," Dr Kendall said.

The results

As for cholesterol, the nut group's average LDL cholesterol level declined from about 97 to 89 mg/dL.

No similar improvements were seen in the other two groups. It's not clear why the full-nut group showed better blood glucose and LDL levels. Dr Kendall said he suspects it is largely because of the monounsaturated fats in nuts.

"But, they also have protein, there's a little fibre, and some polyphenols," he added.

The current study was partially funded by the International Tree Nut Council Nutrition Research & Education Foundation and the Peanut Institute, both industry groups.

(Reuters Health, July 2011)

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