Love to eat snacks in between meals? Instead of munching cookies, brownies, pies, eat tree nuts like almonds, walnuts, cashews, pecans and hazelnuts to reduce your risk of metabolic syndrome. The American Heart Association defines metabolic syndrome as a group of five conditions that can lead to heart disease, diabetes, stroke and other health problems.
Metabolic syndrome is identified when three or more risk factors are present
Metabolic syndrome is diagnosed when someone has three or more of risk factors such as High blood glucose (sugar), low levels of HDL ("good") cholesterol in the blood, high levels of triglycerides in the blood, large waist circumference or "apple-shaped" body and High blood pressure. The new findings published in the journal Nutrients showed that daily tree nut consumption reduces the risk of metabolic syndrome by improving waist circumference, lipid biomarkers, and/or insulin levels, without requiring calorie restriction, in young adults.
"We know that snacking contributes to almost 25 per cent of total daily calories in young adults," said Principal Investigator, Heidi J. Silver, Professor of Medicine at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in the US. "Substituting typical high carbohydrate snacks with tree nuts (almonds, Brazil nuts, cashews, hazelnuts, macadamias, pecans, pine nuts, pistachios and walnuts) would likely have a positive impact in reducing the risk of metabolic syndrome and its consequences in this age group," she added.
In the study, the team enrolled 84 men and women, aged 22-36, most of whom were either overweight or obese (BMI 24.5 to 34.9 kg/m2) and had at least one risk factor for metabolic syndrome. Participants consumed either one ounce of mixed unsalted tree nuts or one ounce of a carbohydrate-rich snack twice daily. Both snacks provided the same number of calories, protein, fibre, and sodium and were part of a 7-day eucaloric weight maintenance menu that repeated throughout the study duration of 16 weeks.
Results revealed surprising insights
The results showed females who consumed tree nuts snacks had a reduced waist circumference and a trend toward reduced visceral (intra-abdominal) fat compared to those consuming carbohydrate snacks. Males who consumed tree nuts snacks had decreased blood insulin levels. Both males and females consuming tree nuts snacks saw an effect on triglycerides and TG/HDL ratios with TG/HDL ratios reduced about 11 per cent compared to those consuming carbohydrate snacks.
"When we assessed the effect of tree nut snacks on individual metabolic syndrome scores (calculated by assigning 1 point for each metabolic syndrome risk factor), we observed a 67 per cent reduction in females and a 42 per cent reduction in males," said Silver.