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The gift of the walnut

Published: 06th May 2013 12:23 PM  |   Last Updated: 06th May 2013 12:23 PM   |  A+A-

Recent research published online by the Journal of Nutrition, found an inverse relationship between walnut consumption and risk of type 2 diabetes in two large prospective cohorts of U.S. women: the Nurses’ Health Study (NHS) and NHS II. The researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health followed 58,063 women (52-77 years) in NHS (1998-2008) and 79,893 women (35-52 years) in NHS II (1999-2009) without diabetes, cardiovascular disease, or cancer at baseline. They found two or more servings (1 serving= 28 grams) of walnuts per week to be associated with a 21 per cent and 15 per cent lower risk of incident type 2 diabetes before and after adjusting for body mass index (BMI) respectively.

At a conservative estimate, India is home to around 40 million diabetics and this number is thought to give India the dubious distinction of being home to the largest number of diabetics in any one country.

Diet and lifestyle modifications are key components in fighting this epidemic, and recent evidence suggests that the type of fat rather than total fat intake plays an important role in the development of type 2 diabetes. Specifically, a higher level of polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs), found significantly in walnuts, has been associated with a reduced risk of type 2 diabetes.

Compared with other nuts, which typically contain a high amount of monounsaturated fats, walnuts are unique because they are rich in PUFAs which may favourably influence insulin resistance and risk of type 2 diabetes. Walnuts are different among nuts specifically in that they are uniquely comprised primarily of PUFAs and are the only nut with a significant amount of alpha-linolenic acid - the plant-based omega-3 fatty acid (2.5 grams of ALA per 1 ounce/ 28 gram serving).

Diabetes and obesity expert Dr David Katz considers walnuts to be a nutritious ingredient.  Registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator Andrea Dunn believes this new research is good news especially considering walnuts are tasty and simple to include daily. “In this study two or more servings of walnuts per week seemed to  make a difference and is so easy to incorporate,” says Andrea.

She suggests adding walnuts to your morning oatmeal or yogurt; grabbing a handful as an afternoon snack or trying them as a coating for fish or as a topping to your vegetable stir-fry.



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