A recent study compared the health of people who ate nuts (tree nuts and peanuts) with those who do not eat nuts often. Conclusion: Nuts are good for you.
The study looked at diet data collected as part of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Study (NHANES) between 1999 and 2004. (NHANES is a government program that collects data to be used to develop public health policy.) Participants who ate more than 1/4 ounce of nuts a day were classified as nut eaters, those who ate less were considered non-consumers. Eighteen percent of those under 50 were nut eaters, 21% of those older than 50 ate nuts.
1. Nut eaters had a lower body mass index (27 vs. 28)
2. Nut eaters had a lower mean weight (174 vs. 178)
3. Nut eaters had a lower systolic blood pressure (122 vs. 123)
4. Nut eaters had higher levels of HDL cholesterol (53 vs. 52)
5. Nut eaters had lower levels of homocysteine (8.6 vs. 8.9, homocysteine elevations are associated with atherosclerosis and increased risk of stroke, heart disease, and more.)
6. Nut eaters had lower levels of C-reactive protein (0.38 vs. 0.42, CRP is a marker of nonspecific inflammation.)
7. Nut eaters had a lower prevalence of excess weight/obesity (63% vs. 66%)
8. Nut eaters had less abdominal obesity (44% vs. 50%)
9. Nut eaters had less blood sugar elevations (12% vs. 15%)
These changes look small but do sound better expressed in percentages: Nut eaters had a 12% lower risk of being overweight or obese, a 13% lower risk of hypertension, and a 20% lower risk of low HDL levels. When they excluded peanut eaters and only looked at those eating tree nuts the effects on weight were better yet: Tree nuts lowered the risk of obesity by 22% and abdominal obesity by 17%.
Of course, the benefits may look small because they were looking at people who may not have eaten many nuts – 4 almonds is approximately a 1/4 ounce, enough nuts a day to qualify a person as a nut eater. The FDA allows claims that eating 1.5 ounces of nuts a day may be good for the heart and this study wanted to look at the potential benefits from yet smaller daily amounts. Its conclusion: Nut consumption should be encouraged by health professionals and dieticians. The study also suggested that we might create a nut category on the food pyramid/plate to encourage more nut consumption.
I believe nuts and seeds are very good for us and teach that, contrary to popular belief, eating nuts is not associated with weight gain. This study fits nicely with my understanding of nutrition. I do have to point out, however, that the study was “supported by the International Tree Nut Council Nutrition Research and Education Foundation.” As is so common in nutritional research, a potential for bias arises. Oh well. But biased or not, it is really interesting to learn how few people eat nuts. Think about it, only 18-21% of American adults eat nuts and peanuts and many in only teeny amounts. I suggest that should change.
NOTE: You are welcome to use my blog’s original images and content for non-commercial purposes if you attribute the work to me (Kathy Abascal) and link back to the blog. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 United States License.