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by Risingsun

Study: Walnuts for Diabetics (and Other People)

Walnuts for Diabetics (and Other People)

Summarized by Robert W. Griffith, MD
January 7, 2005


There have been a lot of reports of the benefits of eating nuts, chiefly relating to heart health. But there hasn't been much indication of how they exert their good effects. Now a study shows that walnuts can raise the HDL-cholesterol level (that's the 'good' cholesterol) in type 2 diabetics, who are at particular risk of developing coronary atherosclerosis. The results are reported in the journal Diabetes Care, and we summarize them below.

Date:   2/27/2005 7:45:19 AM   ( 17 y ) ... viewed 3286 times

The new study

Fifty-eight type 2 diabetics were enrolled in the study; their average age was 59. They were randomly divided into three groups, with each group given different advice on their diet. All three groups were prescribed a diet with 30% of the energy (calories) as fat. The first group had a low fat diet, the second group a modified low-fat diet, and the third group had a modified low-fat diet containing 30 grams of walnuts (about 8-10) daily.

The study lasted 6 months. Body weight, body fat, blood lipids, HBA1c, and the fatty acid levels in red blood cells were measured at baseline, three months, and at the end of the study.

At the end of six months, the group of people taking walnuts had a significantly greater increase in their HDL-cholesterol-to-total cholesterol ratio than the other two treatment groups. There was a 10% reduction in LDL cholesterol in the walnut group, as well. However, there were no differences between the dietary groups with regard to body weight, percent body fat, or HBA1c levels. Examination of the red blood cells confirmed the increased intake of omega-3 fatty acids in the walnuts group.

What this means

This small study shows that a relatively low-fat diet (less than 30% of calorie intake as fat) that included 30 grams of walnuts daily improved the lipid profile of patients with type 2 diabetes. Walnuts contain considerable amounts of polyunsaturated fatty acids (omega-3 fatty acids), which are responsible for these beneficial effects. One of the authors of the study maintains that omega-3 fatty acids also improve insulin resistance, one of the early signs of type 2 diabetes.

There's no doubt that walnuts contain much more omega-3 than almost any other sort of nut. Almonds, cashews, hazelnuts, peanuts, pecans, macademias, pistachios - all have less than 0.4 grams of omega-3 acids per ounce of nuts, compared with 2.5 grams per ounce for walnuts. But some of the other nuts have their own 'strong points': almonds have the most vitamin E, peanuts have the most niacin, hazelnuts the most manganese, brazils the most selenium, and pistachios the most phytosterols.

So, if you like nuts, there's plenty of scope for you to choose the sort to help with any particular deficiency you may think you have. But the best choice may be to boost your omega-3 intake with 10 walnuts a day.


Including walnuts in a low-fat/modified-fat diet improves HDL cholesterol-to-total cholesterol ratios in patients with type 2 diabetes. LC. Tapsell, LJ. Gillen, CS. Patch, et al., Diabetes Care, 2004, vol. 27, pp. 2777--2783

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