By: Jan Chait
Go ahead—have that peanut butter sandwich. Findings from the Harvard University Nurses’ Health Study suggest that women who eat several servings of nuts or peanut butter a week can lower their risk of getting type 2 diabetes by as much as 27 percent. The Nurses’ Health Study followed nearly 84,000 female nurses for 16 years beginning in 1980.
Women who ate a 1-ounce serving of nuts at least five times per week had a 27 percent lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes than those who rarely or never ate nuts. Women who ate at least 5 ounces or more of peanut butter per week reduced their risk by 21 percent compared to those who eschewed peanut butter altogether or rarely ate it. This benefit was demonstrated across ranges of age, body mass index, family history of diabetes and other risk factors for diabetes.
According to the researchers, “Nuts contain 70 to 80 percent fat, and most fatty acids in nuts are unsaturated…Several studies have shown that a higher intake of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fat improves insulin sensitivity. A higher intake of poly-unsaturated fat is associated with a lower risk of type 2 diabetes, whereas a high intake of saturated fat and trans-fat…may increase the risk of type 2 diabetes.”
In addition, other components of nuts, such as fiber and magnesium, decrease insulin demand and resistance, according to other research findings cited by these researchers.
The researchers suggest that regular nut consumption might replace some refined grain products or red or processed meats in the diet in order to avoid increasing caloric intake.
—Journal of the American Medical Association, November 27, 2002