Metabolic syndrome is a cluster of metabolic risk factors associated with premature death, an increased risk for heart disease and type 2 diabetes. The main symptoms are abdominal obesity, raised fat levels in the blood, higher blood pressure and higher than normal blood sugar levels. Between 20 and 30 per cent of the adult population worldwide are estimated to have metabolic syndrome. Nut consumption has been shown to improve blood fat levels and reduce the risk of heart disease but because nuts are high fat, they are perceived as fattening. However, many studies demonstrated that nuts do not appear to contribute to weight gain. A recent study of over 800 people analysed their diets and assessed their intake of total nuts, tree nuts (walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts, cashews, pistachios and Brazil nuts) and peanuts (peanuts are actually a legume). The results showed that people eating the most tree nuts were the least likely to be obese and suffer from metabolic syndrome. Compared to people who ate hardly any nuts, those eating a diet high in both types of nuts were 37 per cent less likely to be obese and people who ate more tree nuts and less peanuts were almost half as likely to be obese (46 per cent) as low nut consumers. Total nut intake among the highest tree nut consumers was 31.6 grams (a good handful) per day. Nuts are not only a good source of protein and healthy fats but they also contain a wealth of minerals (calcium, magnesium zinc, etc.), vitamins (B group, E) and are a good source of fibre. Some of the health benefits of nuts result from replacing other, potentially unhealthy snacks and the body digesting them slowly, therefore making you feel fuller for longer.
Jaceldo-Siegl K et al., 2014. Tree Nuts Are Inversely Associated with Metabolic Syndrome and Obesity: The Adventist Health Study-2. PLoS ONE 9(1) e85133.