Boosting Daily Nut Consumption Linked to Less Weight Gain and Lower Obesity Risk

Increasing nut consumption by just half a serving (14 g or ½ oz) a day is linked to less weight gain and a lower risk of obesity, suggests a large, long term observational study, published in the online journal BMJ Nutrition, Prevention & Health.

Substituting unhealthy foods, such as processed meats, French fries, and crisps (potato chips) with a half a serving of nuts may be a simple strategy to ward off the gradual weight gain that often accompanies the aging process, suggest the researchers.

On average, US adults pile on 1lb or nearly half a kilo every year. Gaining 2.5-10 kilos in weight is linked to a significantly greater risk of heart disease/stroke and diabetes.

Nuts are rich in healthy unsaturated fats, vitamins, minerals and fibre, but they are calorie dense, so often not thought of as good for weight control. But emerging evidence suggests that the quality of what’s eaten may be as important as the quantity.

Amid modest increases in average nut consumption in the US over the past two decades, the researchers wanted to find out if these changes might affect weight control.

They analysed information on weight, diet and physical activity in three groups of people: 51,529 male health professionals, aged 40 to 75 when enrolled in the Health Professionals Follow Up Study; 121,700 nurses, aged 35 to 55 when recruited to the Nurses Health Study (NHS); and 116,686 nurses, aged 24 to 44 when enrolled in the Nurses Health Study II (NHS II).

Over more than 20 years of monitoring, participants were asked every 4 years to state their weight, and how often, over the preceding year they had eaten a serving (28 g or 1 oz) of nuts, including peanuts and peanut butter.

Average weekly exercise– walking, jogging, cycling, swimming, racquet sports and gardening–was assessed every two years by questionnaire. It was measured in metabolic equivalent of task (MET) hours, which express how much energy (calories) is expended per hour of physical activity.

Average annual weight gain across all three groups was 0.32 kg (0.71 lb). Between 1986 and 2010, total nut consumption rose from a quarter to just under half a serving/day in men; and from 0.15 to 0.31 servings/day among the women in the NHS study. Between 1991 and 2011 total daily nut consumption rose from 0.07 to 0.31 servings among women in the NHS II study.

Increasing consumption of any type of nut was associated with less long term weight gain and a lower risk of becoming obese (BMI of 30 or more kg/m²), overall.

Increasing nut consumption by half a serving a day was associated with a lower risk of putting on 2 or more kilos over any 4 year period. And a daily half serving increase in walnut consumption was associated with a 15% lower risk of obesity.

Substituting processed meats, refined grains, or desserts, including chocolates, pastries, pies and donuts, for half a serving of nuts was associated with staving off weight gain of between 0.41 and 0.70 kg in any 4 year period.

Within any 4 year period, upping daily nut consumption from none to at least half a serving was associated with staving off 0.74 kg in weight, a lower risk of moderate weight gain, and a 16% lower risk of obesity, compared with not eating any nuts.

And a consistently higher nut intake of at least half a serving a day was associated with a 23% lower risk of putting on 5 or more kilos and of becoming obese over the same timeframe.

No such associations were observed for increases in peanut butter intake.

The findings held true after taking account of changes in diet and lifestyle, such as exercise and alcohol intake.

This is an observational study, and as such, can’t establish cause. And the data relied on personal report, which may have affected accuracy, while only white, relatively affluent health professionals were included, so the findings may not be more widely applicable.

But the findings echo those of previous observational studies, note the researchers, who attempt to explain the associations they found.

Chewing nuts takes some effort, leaving less energy for eating other things, they suggest, while the high fibre content of nuts can delay stomach emptying so making a person feel sated and full for longer.

Nut fibre also binds well to fats in the gut, meaning that more calories are excreted. And there is some evidence that the high unsaturated fat content of nuts increases resting energy expenditure, which may also help to stave off weight gain.

Snacking on a handful of nuts rather than biscuits or crisps may help to ward off the weight gain that often accompanies aging and is a relatively manageable way of helping to curb the onset of obesity, they suggest.

And a nut habit is likely to be good for the planet, they add. “In addition to the impact on human health, using environmentally friendly plant-based protein, such as nuts and seeds to replace animal sources of protein may contribute to the promotion of a global sustainable food system,” they write.

Source: EurekAlert!


Today’s Comic

Best Healthy Nuts

Len Canter wrote . . . . . . . . .

From positive effects on cholesterol levels to reducing the risk of heart disease and even some cancers, nuts are good for you.

Ounce for ounce, they are nutrient powerhouses with beneficial fats and plant protein. Many studies recommend eating 1-1/2 ounces of nuts a day, but which are best? High levels of nutrients put these at the top of the list.

Pistachios have antioxidants including lutein, important for eye health, beta-carotene and vitamin E. Eating pistachios may help lower “bad” LDL cholesterol and maintain heart health, according to Penn State researchers. Shelling them yourself prolongs your enjoyment. One ounce is equal to 45 to 50 pistachios.

Almonds are an excellent source of vitamin E and magnesium, plus a good jolt of calcium. A Korean study found that eating about two ounces of almonds a day can improve levels of all blood fats, including triglycerides. A University of Florida study found that their fiber content could boost good bacteria in the gut and good health in general. One ounce is equal to about 24 almonds.

Hazelnuts, or filberts, are also rich in vitamin E as well as the minerals copper and manganese. They’re being studied, along with almonds and walnuts, as a food to protect brain health. One ounce is equal to 15 to 20 hazelnuts.

Pecans are high in antioxidants and heart-healthy monounsaturated fats. A recent Tufts University study found that pecans are part of a smart anti-diabetes diet. One ounce is equal to 15 to 20 pecans.

Walnuts top many lists with twice the antioxidants of other nuts and an abundance of heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids. In addition to the heart health benefits, eating walnuts may reduce the risk of depression. One ounce is equal to about 15 walnut halves.

Common wisdom has been to reach for raw and/or unsalted nuts to get the most nutrients without added sodium. But a study published in the European Journal of Nutrition found that dry roasting (which enhances nut flavor) and light salting doesn’t affect their nutritional content.

While great for nibbling, nuts make crunchy additions to salads, yogurt and breakfast grains. They can be chopped fine and used instead of breadcrumbs, ground fine to use in place of flour, and processed into a nut butter.

Source: HealthDay

A Nutty Solution for Improving Brain Health

Long-term, high nut consumption could be the key to better cognitive health in older people according to new research from the University of South Australia.

In a study of 4822 Chinese adults aged 55+ years, researchers found that eating more than 10 grams of nuts a day was positively associated with better mental functioning, including improved thinking, reasoning and memory.

Lead researcher, UniSA’s Dr Ming Li, says the study is the first to report an association between cognition and nut intake in older Chinese adults, providing important insights into increasing mental health issues (including dementia) faced by an ageing population.

“Population aging is one of the most substantial challenges of the twenty-first century. Not only are people living longer, but as they age, they require additional health support which is placing unprecedented pressure on aged-care and health services,” Dr Li says.

“In China, this is a massive issue, as the population is ageing far more rapidly than almost any other country in the world.

“Improved and preventative health care – including dietary modifications – can help address the challenges that an aging population presents.

“By eating more than 10 grams (or two teaspoons) of nuts per day older people could improve their cognitive function by up to 60 per cent– compared to those not eating nuts – effectively warding off what would normally be experienced as a natural two-year cognition decline.”

China has one of the fastest growing aging populations. In 2029, China’s population is projected to peak at 1.44 billion, with the ratio of young to old dramatically imbalanced by the rising ranks of the elderly. By 2050, 330 million Chinese will be over age 65, and 90.4 million will be over age 80, representing the world’s largest population of this most elderly age group.

More broadly, the World Health Organization says that by 2020, the number of people aged 60 years and older will outnumber children younger than five years old.

The UniSA study analysed nine waves of China Health Nutrition Survey data collected over 22 years, finding that 17 per cent of participants were regular consumers of nuts (mostly peanuts). Dr Li says peanuts have specific anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects which can alleviate and reduce cognitive decline.

“Nuts are known to be high in healthy fats, protein and fibre with nutritional properties that can lower cholesterol and improve cognitive health,” Dr Li says.

“While there is no cure for age-related cognition decline and neurogenerative disease, variations in what people eat are delivering improvements for older people.”

The World Health Organization estimates that globally, the number of people living with dementia is at 47 million.

By 2030, this is projected to rise to 75 million and by 2050, global dementia cases are estimated to almost triple. China has the largest population of people with dementia.

“As people age, they naturally experience changes to conceptual reasoning, memory, and processing speed. This is all part of the normal ageing process,” Dr Li says

“But age is also the strongest known risk factor for cognitive disease. If we can find ways to help older people retain their cognitive health and independence for longer – even by modifying their diet – then this absolutely worth the effort.”

Source: University of South Australia


Today’s Comic

Eating Nuts May Improve Brain Health

Long-term, high nut consumption could be the key to better cognitive health in older people according to new research from the University of South Australia.

In a study of 4822 Chinese adults aged 55+ years, researchers found that eating more than 10 grams of nuts a day was positively associated with better mental functioning, including improved thinking, reasoning and memory.

Lead researcher, UniSA’s Dr Ming Li, says the study is the first to report an association between cognition and nut intake in older Chinese adults, providing important insights into increasing mental health issues (including dementia) faced by an ageing population.

“Population aging is one of the most substantial challenges of the twenty-first century. Not only are people living longer, but as they age, they require additional health support which is placing unprecedented pressure on aged-care and health services,” Dr Li says.

“In China, this is a massive issue, as the population is ageing far more rapidly than almost any other country in the world.

“Improved and preventative health care – including dietary modifications – can help address the challenges that an aging population presents.

“By eating more than 10 grams (or two teaspoons) of nuts per day older people could improve their cognitive function by up to 60 per cent– compared to those not eating nuts – effectively warding off what would normally be experienced as a natural two-year cognition decline.”

China has one of the fastest growing aging populations. In 2029, China’s population is projected to peak at 1.44 billion, with the ratio of young to old dramatically imbalanced by the rising ranks of the elderly. By 2050, 330 million Chinese will be over age 65, and 90.4 million will be over age 80, representing the world’s largest population of this most elderly age group.

More broadly, the World Health Organization says that by 2020, the number of people aged 60 years and older will outnumber children younger than five years old.

The UniSA study analysed nine waves of China Health Nutrition Survey data collected over 22 years, finding that 17 per cent of participants were regular consumers of nuts (mostly peanuts). Dr Li says peanuts have specific anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects which can alleviate and reduce cognitive decline.

“Nuts are known to be high in healthy fats, protein and fibre with nutritional properties that can lower cholesterol and improve cognitive health,” Dr Li says.

“While there is no cure for age-related cognition decline and neurogenerative disease, variations in what people eat are delivering improvements for older people.”

The World Health Organization estimates that globally, the number of people living with dementia is at 47 million.

By 2030, this is projected to rise to 75 million and by 2050, global dementia cases are estimated to almost triple. China has the largest population of people with dementia.

“As people age, they naturally experience changes to conceptual reasoning, memory, and processing speed. This is all part of the normal ageing process,” Dr Li says

“But age is also the strongest known risk factor for cognitive disease. If we can find ways to help older people retain their cognitive health and independence for longer – even by modifying their diet – then this absolutely worth the effort.”

Source: University of South Australia

Nut Consumption May Aid Colon Cancer Survival

Anne Doerr wrote . . . . . . .

People with stage III colon cancer who regularly eat nuts are at significantly lower risk of cancer recurrence and mortality than those who don’t, according to a new, large study led by researchers at Yale Cancer Center.

The findings were published today in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

The study followed 826 participants in a clinical trial for a median of 6.5 years after they were treated with surgery and chemotherapy. Those who regularly consumed at least two, one-ounce servings of nuts each week demonstrated a 42% improvement in disease-free survival and a 57% improvement in overall survival.

“Further analysis of this cohort revealed that disease-free survival increased by 46% among the subgroup of nut consumers who ate tree nuts rather than peanuts,” said Charles S. Fuchs, M.D., director of Yale Cancer Center and senior author of the study. Tree nuts include almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts, cashews, and pecans, among others. In contrast, peanuts are actually in the legume family of foods.

“These findings are in keeping with several other observational studies that indicate that a slew of healthy behaviors — including increased physical activity, keeping a healthy weight, and lower intake of sugar and sweetened beverages — improve colon cancer outcomes,” said Temidayo Fadelu, M.D., a postdoctoral fellow at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and lead author of the paper. “The results highlight the importance of emphasizing dietary and lifestyle factors in colon cancer survivorship.”

Additionally, the researchers emphasized, the study highlighted connections between biological mechanisms that worsen disease not just in colon cancer but in certain chronic illnesses such as type 2 diabetes.

Many previous studies have reported that nuts, among other health benefits, may help to reduce insulin resistance, a condition in which the body has difficulty processing the insulin hormone. Insulin resistance leads to unhealthy levels of sugar in the blood and is often a predecessor to type 2 diabetes and related illnesses.

Earlier research among patients with colon cancer has revealed worse outcomes among those with lifestyle factors — such as obesity, lack of exercise, and a diet with high levels of carbohydrates — that heighten insulin resistance and quickly raise levels of blood sugar.

“These studies support the hypothesis that behaviors that make you less insulin-resistant, including eating nuts, seem to improve outcomes in colon cancer,” Fuchs said. “However, we don’t know yet what exactly about nuts is beneficial.”

Nuts also might play a positive role by satisfying hunger with less intake of carbohydrates or other foods associated with poor outcomes, Fuchs noted.

Patients may not be eating nuts due to concerns about the high fat content, said Fuchs. For example, a one-ounce serving of about 24 almonds holds about 200 calories, including 14 grams of fat. “People ask me if increasing nut consumption will lead to obesity, which leads to worse outcomes,” he said. “But what’s really interesting is that in our studies, and across the scientific literature in general, regular consumers of nuts tend to be leaner.”

Dietary changes can make a difference. An earlier analysis of diets in the same patient cohort by Fuchs and his colleagues found a significant link between coffee consumption and reduced recurrence and mortality in colon cancer.

When Fuchs advises his patients about lifestyle choices, “first and foremost I talk about avoiding obesity, exercising regularly, and staying away from a high-carbohydrate diet,” he said. “Then we talk about things like coffee and nuts. If you like coffee or nuts, enjoy them, and if you don’t, there are many other helpful steps you can take.”

“Overall, we are working to apply the same rigorous science to the understanding of diet and lifestyles in the colon cancer patient population that we apply to defining new drugs,” Fuchs said.

Source: Yale University