People who ate more nuts reduced their risk for cardiovascular disease and diabetes, as chronicled in four recently published papers, including three meta-analyses.

In one meta-analysis, Ashkan Afshin, MD, and coauthors evaluated data from more than 500,000 individuals to assess the effect of regular nut consumption on incidence of ischemic heart disease (IHD), stroke, and diabetes (Am J Clin Nutr. 2014;100[1]:278-288). People who ate nuts regularly had reduced risks for diabetes (13%), fatal IHD (24%), and nonfatal IHD (22%) compared with those who did not eat nuts regularly.

A second meta-analysis from Cheng Luo and colleagues examined the relationship between nut intake and incidence of cardiovascular disease (CVD), all-cause mortality, and type 2 diabetes (Am J Clin Nutr. 2014;100[1]:256-269). Nut consumption was inversely associated with IHD, overall CVD, and all-cause mortality, but was not significantly associated with diabetes or stroke.

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The researchers commended nuts as a rich source of unsaturated fatty acids, fiber, protein, and minerals (calcium, magnesium, and potassium), which are linked with decreased cardiovascular risk.

Donghao Zhou and fellow investigators looked at the findings of 23 prospective studies involving nut consumption in a third meta-analysis (Am J Clin Nutr. 2014;100[1]:270-277). They found that a higher consumption of nuts was associated with reduced risks of coronary artery disease and hypertension, but not stroke or type 2 diabetes.

The connection between nuts and diabetes proved stronger in a study published online ahead of print by Nutrition, Metabolism & Cardiovascular Diseases.

The authors found that the fatty acids in nuts may help reduce the risk for coronary heart disease (CHD) in persons with type 2 diabetes. For 12 weeks, participants consumed either a half-cup of mixed nuts, a quarter-cup of mixed nuts and a half-portion of muffins, or a full portion of muffins. The full-dose nut group had significantly better glycemic control and blood lipid levels than did the others.

“The results indicate that by incorporating nuts into a diabetes diet, one can modify the fatty acid profile of adults with type 2 diabetes by modestly increasing the unsaturated fatty acid content of blood lipids,” explained study coauthor Cyril Kendall, PhD, in a press release from the International Tree Nut Council Nutrition Research & Education Foundation.