Nut Consumption might Have an Effect on Metabolic Syndrome & Overweight/Obesity Risk in a Positive Way
Don’t go nuts over nuts! The crunchy almonds, green pistachios that peep out of their creamy shells, brain-shaped walnuts, exotic hazelnuts, the friendly peanuts and the evergreen cashew nuts are a treat to our taste buds indeed but overeating them can prove to be harmful for your health. Nuts are fruits and we have been recommended to eat five portions of fruits and veggies daily as a part of our healthy meal plan. If you feel there is nothing wrong in substituting nuts for your juicy strawberries or watermelons you have been absolutely mistaken. A nut is a fruit that contains a non-edible part (shell) and an edible inner part (seed). Its not only humans but also animals and birds that love to nibble on these tasty treats for their high nutritive value and energy source. There are a plethora of research happening on these calorie-rich edibles for their benefit in lowering the risk of diseases such as cardiovascular disease and cancer.
Nuts are the best bets to buy during any season, the best snack that could be munched in between your meals and fulfills health requirements for every penny spent as they are rich in bioactive nutrients such as healthy fats, fiber, vitamins, minerals, phytosterols, folate, magnesium, phosphorus, amino acids and selenium. Epidemiological studies have supported the fact that consuming nuts reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes mellitus and cancer. But what role do they play in affecting metabolic features and body weight management?
Going Gaga Over Nuts
Metabolic syndrome (MetS) is a cluster of metabolic disorders that include abdominal obesity, high blood sugar levels, blood pressure levels, cholesterol levels and triglyceride levels. MetS is turning out to be an epidemic that’s spreading like wildfire affecting more than a quarter of the world’s population placing them at a higher risk of cardiovascular diseases, stroke and diabetes. Still, this is a disease that can be easily controlled by reducing your weight and eating a proper diet. Likewise, obesity/overweight also exists as a global epidemic with more than 1.9 billion people aged above 18 years branded as overweight and 650 million of them listed as obese (acc to WHO 2016 statistics). On a positive note, people are beginning to realize the importance of a healthy lifestyle and have started making healthy diet modifications. All these play an integral role in reducing the risk of MetS and overweight/obesity. Including more of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, proteins, dairy and nuts and seeds is essential for good health. But how much of these nuts and seeds to include and does it rather backfire as a risk factor for obesity is the primary question here.
There are studies quoting various results with some of them showing that nut consumption was inversely associated with risk of MetS or overweight/obesity, some showed no links and others showed inconsistent results. A thorough analysis pooled data from different relevant studies and came to a conclusion that is rather indicative of a nut’s role in our life!
Nut Consumption: Effect on MetS Risk & Obesity/Overweight Risk: A Conglomeration of Studies
The analysis including various studies that had dealt with nut consumption and its effect on metabolic syndrome and overweight/obesity risk came up with 7840 reports of which 3629 were duplicates and 4011 irrelevant studies were removed. 132 studies did not meet the study criteria and finally it was only 68 studies that was included in the analysis. These studies together consisted of 420,890 participants with 4625 MetS cases and 47,235 overweight/obesity cases. All of these studies fetched data on nut intake through food questionnaires. The clinical trials documented 7184 subjects who were followed up anywhere between 3 and 336 weeks.
Nut Consumption & Obesity Risk in Women
Nuts are good for the heart and peanuts are special-these are the first nuts to be called ‘heart-friendly’. These are also less expensive and widely consumed. Every nut has a unique nutrient composition that helps in fulfilling various health criteria. Studies exist linking the relationship between nut consumption and its effect on MetS and overweight risk. One study focused on the relationship between long-term consumption of nuts or peanut butter and weight change in young and middle-aged women.
This study included 51,188 participants who were followed up using food questionnaires that were mailed twice a year since the year 1989. Participants were asked to comment on the portion size of different foods consumed during the previous years. There were 9 choices ranging from never to >= 6 times/day. 1991 and 1995 questionnaires included questions on consumption of peanut butter and tree nuts during the previous year. In the 1999 questionnaire, tree nuts were subdivided into walnuts and other nuts. Total nut consumption was the sum total of peanuts and other nuts consumption. To assess the relationship between nut consumption and body weight changes, women were divided into 4 categories depending on their frequency of consumption-never/almost never, 1-3 times/month, 1 time/week and ≥2 times/week. Percentage of women who fell into each of the groups was as follows: never/almost never: 58.8%, 1-3 times/month: 19.5%, 1 time/week: 14.8%, 2-4 times/week: 6%, 5-6 times/week: .5%, 1 time/day: 0.3%, 2-3 times/day: 0.09%, 4-5 times/day: 0.006% and ≥ times/day: 0%.
Results showed that:
Another study in Spain showed that compared to those who never/rarely ate nuts, participants who ate nuts ≥2 times/week had a 31% lower risk of gaining ≥5 kg during follow up. Those who frequently ate nuts had an average 0.42 kg less weight gain compared to those who rarely ate nuts. There have also been trials that show that increased consumption of nuts does not cause weight gain but rather, incorporating nuts into hypocaloric diets might be beneficial for weight control.
The EPIC-PANACEA study looked into the relationship between nut intake and changes in weight over a 5-year period. This study included 373, 293 individuals whose body weight was measured at the beginning and end of the study. The relative risk of becoming overweight was measured and results showed that on an average, participants gained 2.1 kg weight over the 5-year period. In comparison to those who did not eat nuts those who had the highest consumption had less weight gain over 5 years and also had 5% lower risk of becoming overweight. This study also proves that nut consumption is associated with reduced weight gain and lower risk of obesity.
More than 75% of a nut contains fat and hence, it is recommended that you eat them in moderation. It is advisable to eat four servings of nut per week and even more important is the fact that these must be raw or dry-roasted without being covered in chocolate, sugar or salt. Despite these studies showing that nut consumption is not a risk factor for weight gain, there are plenty other factors that must be considered too to reap these benefits. Nuts, being calorie-laden, are not miracles against obesity issues or metabolic syndrome. Hence, enjoy your share of nuts but do mind the portions and follow regular exercise schedule to reap maximum benefits.
Nut consumption & risk of metabolic syndrome & obesity/overweight-https://nutritionandmetabolism.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12986-018-0282-y
Effect of long-term nut consumption in women: https://academic.oup.com/ajcn/article/89/6/1913/4596881
How do we fare after consuming nuts for a 5-year period? https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s00394-017-1513-0
Eating nuts for health: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/heart-disease/in-depth/nuts/art-20046635
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Dr. Nafeesa Imteyaz of First Eat Right clinic, is the Best Dietitian Nutritionist in Bangalore. Best Dietitian Nutritionist in Pune. Best Dietitian Nutritionist in Hyderabad. Best Dietitian Nutritionist in Chennai. Best Dietitian Nutritionist in Mumbai. Best Dietitian Nutritionist in Delhi. Best Dietitian Nutritionist in Kolkata.