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NUTS, DIET & OBESITY
In last week’s column, I reviewed recent research suggesting a role for walnuts in reducing elevated cholesterol levels. Based upon some of the comments that I received from readers regarding this “walnut column,” I will present some additional favorable new health research findings on nuts in this week’s column.
Hard-shelled nuts tend to be rich in inflammation-fighting omega-3 fatty acids (luckily, the majority of the fat content in hard-shelled nuts is in the form of heart-healthy unsaturated fats), and in plant sterols. As I discussed last week, these compounds help to lower the level of LDL (the “bad cholesterol”) in the blood.
The Mediterranean Diet, which is rich in fish, whole grains, nuts, fresh fruits, and fresh vegetables (and low in red meat and highly processed foods), has repeatedly been shown to decrease the risk of the top two causes of premature death throughout the world (cardiovascular disease and cancer). However, some health experts have expressed concerned about the relatively high fat content of nuts, and the possibility that daily nut consumption might lead to an increased risk of obesity. Fortunately, a newly published prospective public health study suggests that the moderate intake of nuts, in combination with the Mediterranean Diet, is actually associated with a decreased risk of obesity.
The current issue of the journal Nutrition, Metabolism & Cardiovascular Diseases includes the findings of the Mediterranean “PREDIMED” prospective public health study, which enrolled 847 older men and women, with an average age of 67 years. The diets and activity levels of these patient volunteers were carefully evaluated in this study, and all of these elderly volunteers underwent clinical examinations to determine their waist circumference, and their body mass index, or BMI (a measure of body fat content that is adjusted for both height and weight).
After correcting for other dietary and lifestyle factors associated with obesity in these patient volunteers, the data from this study revealed that increased nut intake was associated with both a decreased BMI and decreased waist circumference. For every serving of 30 grams of nuts consumed, waist circumference decreased by 2.1 centimeters (approximately 1 inch), and BMI was reduced by 0.78 (kilograms per meter-squared) in these patient volunteers. Increased vegetable intake was also associated with a decreased waist circumference, as well. (Not surprisingly, meat intake was significantly associated with an increase in both BMI and waist circumference.) Moreover, these findings were observed in both male and female study participants.
Walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts, pecans, pistachios, pecans, macadamia nuts, and peanuts (which are, technically, not nuts, but which have a nutritional profile similar to hard-shelled nuts) are all rich in omega-3 fatty acids and other heart-healthy nutrients. Because these nuts do contain a significant number of “healthy fat” calories, however, nuts should be consumed in moderation, as with all fat-containing foods. Currently, most experts recommend that 30 to 45 grams (1 to 1.6 ounces) of nuts be added to our daily diet to maximize the health benefits of these delicious nutritional treats!
To learn more about nuts and the Mediterranean Diet as part of a comprehensive, evidence-based cancer prevention lifestyle, look for the publication of my new book, in the spring of this year:
“A Cancer Prevention Guide for the Human Race”
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Disclaimer: As always, my advice to readers is to seek the advice of your physician before making any significant changes in medications, diet, or level of physical activity
Dr. Wascher is an oncologic surgeon, a professor of surgery, a cancer researcher, an oncology consultant, and a widely published author
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