ISLAMABAD: Snacking on a handful of nuts instead of a muffin could help Type 2 diabetes patients control their blood sugar levels and lower bad cholesterol, Toronto-based researchers say in a new study.
University of Toronto and St Michael’s Hospital doctors teamed up to see if nuts were beneficial to diabetics after recent studies showed that the food, packed with healthy fats, has been linked to lowering the risk of heart disease.
The researchers divided 117 people into three groups and each group was fed two ounces of mixed nuts or a healthy muffin or nuts and a muffin. Results, published Tuesday in the journal Diabetes Care , showed that after three months patients who had consumed just nuts had the greatest improvement in lowering bad cholesterol compared to the other groups.
Lead author Dr David Jenkins , a nutritional scientist at the University of Toronto with about 30 years of expertise in studying diabetes, said his findings offer Type 2 diabetics a healthy replacement for carbohydrates, Health news reported. “Mixed, unsalted, raw, or dry-roasted nuts have benefits for both blood glucose control and blood lipids and may be used as part of a strategy to improve diabetes control without weight gain,” he said.
“This is only a small step but we think it’s a positive one.”
Nuts have had a “very bad image” in the past because they’re high in calories and contain fat, but dietitians have now promoted the food as a nutrient powerhouse because of its monounsaturated fat content, which fights heart disease, a common ailment in diabetics, Jenkins said.
Patients who had two ounces of mixed nuts raw almonds, pistachios, walnuts, pecans, hazelnuts, peanuts, cashews and macadamias lowered their bad cholesterol by eight per cent, while those who ate nuts and muffins lowered their levels by 4.5 per cent.
Both groups also reported better control of their blood sugar levels.
The group that snacked on muffins alone didn’t see a change in their health, the findings showed. The muffins were a “healthy” choice made with whole wheat flour, little saturated fat and sweetened with applesauce instead of sugar. They were also made without egg yolks so they didn’t contain cholesterol, Jenkins noted.
Replacing carbohydrates with two ounces of nuts as a small meal or as a snack while adopting other habits, such as eating legumes and beans would contribute to a healthy diet for diabetics, Jenkins said.
“You’re not going to cure anything with it but you would do yourself a huge service,” Jenkins said.
Jenkins plans to continue his study on nuts and how they benefit patients with Type 2 diabetes by looking at how much they should be eating and what kinds of nuts would offer the most protection for the heart.