Previous research has revealed that nuts are associated with a lower risk of type 2 diabetes and heart disease. The medical community also knows that inflammation in the body is a risk factor for these conditions. A new study from researchers at Brigham and Women's Hospital draws a connection between the three, revealing an association between the consumption of peanuts as well as tree nuts - such as peanuts, walnuts, pecans, almonds, cashews, and macadamia nuts - and lower inflammation levels. The results have been published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
Dr. Ying Bao and her team analyzed data from the Nurses' Health Study and Health Professionals Follow-Up Study, two large-scale endeavors from the 1990s. The data comes from 5,013 participants across the U.S. who completed food questionnaires and also had blood samples drawn and analyzed. In particular, the researchers looked at the number of servings of nuts consumed per week, as well as three molecules that signal inflammation in the body: C-reactive protein, interleukin 6, and tumor necrosis factor receptor 2.
After adjusting the data to account for factors like lifestyle differences between participants, the research team found that those who consumed five or more servings of nuts had significantly lower C-reactive protein and interleukin 6 levels compared to those who seldom or never consumed nuts. However, no such association between nut consumption and tumor necrosis factor receptor 2 levels was noted.
What Does This Mean?
This study is a key addition to the body of research in this area, which shows that nut consumption can protect against cardiovascular and metabolic conditions. These results indicate that the beneficial effect of nuts likely comes from their ability to reduce levels of inflammatory compounds in the body. Swapping out just three servings of red meat, eggs, or refined grains a week for nuts - the researchers note - produces dramatic reductions in inflammation biomarkers and constitutes a healthy dietary change that can help prevent diabetes and heart disease.