The everyday snack that can help people with type 2 diabetes

In something that I can only say “DUH!” to (why do I feel like I’ve been saying that a lot this week?), a new review published in the journal PLOS One found that a couple handfuls of tree nuts a day may improve glycemic control in patients with type 2 diabetes.

How many years have you and I known this? And how many times do they need to keep reviewing the same old stuff? If anything, I suppose this is another chance for the people who have been hiding under a rock to finally get the message, loud and clear.

Not only can nuts help in type 2 diabetes, but they can also offer a variety of health benefits, including improving blood glucose control, lowering harmful LDL cholesterol and triglycerides, raising HDL cholesterol (the good kind), and lowering blood pressure.

This review specifically looked at studies of tree nuts, which include almonds, Brazil nuts, cashews, hazelnuts, macadamia nuts, pecans, pine nuts, pistachios, and walnuts. (Notice that it didn’t include peanuts. Despite being most people’s go-to, peanuts aren’t actually nuts—they’re  legumes.)

When the researchers pooled all the data they found that eating about 1/2 cup of tree nuts per day helped reduce both HbA1c and fasting glucose levels over the course of around 8 weeks.

It’s also worth noting that some of the studies showing the most benefit investigated the effect of tree nuts as a dietary replacement for carbohydrates. Gee, where have I heard that before? Eat nuts and get rid of the highly refined carbohydrates. Seems an easy message to get out–but somehow…crickets.

Not only do tree nuts make a great, healthy replacement for carbs, but they’re also rich sources of magnesium and monounsaturated fat. And both of these nutrients have been linked to improved insulin sensitivity. And, don’t forget: the highest percentage of monounsaturated fat you can get comes from two of my all-time favorite foods: macadamia nut oil and avocado.)

The bottom line, as ever: Nuts contain protein, fiber, minerals vitamins and antioxidants as well as good, healthy fats. And eating 1/2 a cup of them each day will help keep your stomach full, your heart healthy, and your blood sugar balanced.

Just one more thing before I let you go… I wanted you to see exactly how research like this gets funded. Read it (if you dare) and weep:

“This study was supported by the International Tree Nut Council Nutrition Research & Education Foundation and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research. Ms. Viguiliouk has no disclosures. Dr. Kendall has received research support from the Advanced Foods and Material Network, Agrifoods and Agriculture Canada, the Almond Board of California, the American Pistachio Growers, Barilla, the California Strawberry Commission, the Calorie Control Council, CIHR, the Canola Council of Canada, Coca-Cola (investigator-initiated, unrestricted grant), Hain Celestial, the International Tree Nut Council Nutrition Research and Education Foundation, Kellogg, Kraft, Loblaw, Orafti, Pulse Canada, Saskatchewan Pulse Growers, Solae, and Unilever. He has received travel funding, consultant fees, and/or honoraria from Abbott Laboratories, the Almond Board of California, the American Peanut Council, the American Pistachio Growers, Barilla, Bayer, the Canola Council of Canada, Coca-Cola, Danone, General Mills, the International Tree Nut Council Nutrition Research and Education Foundation, Kellogg, Loblaw, the Nutrition Foundation of Italy, Oldways Preservation Trust, Orafti, Paramount Farms, the Peanut Institute, PepsiCo, Pulse Canada, Sabra Dipping, Saskatchewan Pulse Growers, Solae, Sun-Maid, Tate and Lyle, and Unilever. He is on the dietary guidelines committee for the diabetes nutrition study group of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes and has served on the scientific advisory board for the Almond Board of California, the International Tree Nut Council, Oldways Preservation Trust, Paramount Farms, and Pulse Canada. Disclosures for the coauthors are listed in the article.”

I’ve been practicing medicine for more than 20 years now…and I’ve seen thousands of studies. But I still can’t believe it takes this type of corporate backing to do a study about something we already know: nuts are extremely healthy.

Now if only these corporate giants would continue to use their power—and money—for good instead of evil, the world would be a better (and healthier) place.


“Effect of Tree Nuts on Glycemic Control in Diabetes: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Dietary Trials,” PLOS One 2014; 9(7):e103376 (

“Tree Nuts Improve Glycemic Control in Type 2 Diabetes,” Medscape Medical News, 8/6/14 (