Thursday, January 21, 2010

Health benefits of dietary nut intake

Dietary nut intake is strongly associated with a variety of health benefits, particularly a lower risk of developing cardiovascular disease. Here is a link to a recent review of the subject:

This 2009 article describes a carefully controlled, inpatient, 4-day randomized study in which subjects were given a breakfast containing walnuts; or a "placebo" breakfast containing the same number of calories, and the same amount of carbs & fat, but no walnuts. The results showed that a breakfast containing walnuts leads to a significantly greater feeling of satiation (contentment and satisfaction with respect to food), at lunchtime:

Therefore, eating walnuts, as part of a balanced diet, is likely to maintain a feeling of satiation, and therefore reduce some of the physiological drives which can contribute to unhealthy eating behaviours.

This is a reference to a large prospective study of over 50 000 women followed over 8 years. The results included a multivariate analysis controlling for many other factors, such as physical activity, smoking, other dietary habits, etc. There was a slight reduction in weight gain or obesity in those who included more nuts in their diet, and in fact the more frequent the nut intake, the lower the risk of obesity:

With respect to mental health, I think that a balanced, healthy diet is important. Lifestyle habits, including nutritional choices, which reduce risk of cardiovascular disease, are likely also to reduce risk of degenerative brain disease. Walnuts are a source of omega-3 fatty acids, for which there is modest evidence of beneficial effects on mood.

Treatment of eating disorders requires deliberate attention to healthy, regular nutritional habits. Many individuals with eating disorders exclude certain types of food from their diets, based on an unfounded belief that the exclusion would lead to improved control of appetite or caloric intake.

Nuts in particular clearly deserve to be part of a healthy diet, unless there are issues such as food allergy.

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