Nuts to You

September 10, 2008

Nuts to You 

 Competency #14  Superfoods                      Reference: Reference: Second International Symposium on Nut Consumption: Nutrition  Sept 2008 1734S-1762S  Many authors 

 We’re not eating enough!  The recent “second” international symposium on the consumption of nuts in human nutrition just compiled and reviewed all the literature on nuts and human health.  There were lots of interesting facts.  Only 1/3 of Americans eat any nuts on any given day, and most of that is in the form of snacks.  This is counting peanuts and peanut butter as nut products.   Even with that, the average daily consumption is only 30 grams instead of 45, or an ounce and a half. 

 First of all:  YOU DON’T GAIN WEIGHT eating nuts.  Despite their being mostly oil and protein with very little carbohydrate, you don’t put on weight.  Lots of studies show that.  Thoughts are: One, nuts make you feel full because of their oils.  Two, your body compensates with the calories and burns a little warmer, using up the energy in metabolizing the calories.  (REE: Resting energy expenditure up 11% over a year) Finally, your enzymes in your gut aren’t all that good at digesting nuts, so you don’t really get all the calories in them.  Their internal fiber is too dense and you only extract part of the calories.  

So, what effects do we see? Heart Disease:  a 35-40% drop in sudden death from cardiovascular disease by eating nuts.  That’s almost as good as fish oil!  This is major news!  They can’t quite put their finger on just what causes that wonderful effect, but the thoughts are that all nuts are loaded with PUFAs and MUFAs.  (Fancy name for good oils: Poly-Unsaturated Fatty Acid or Mono – Unsaturated Fatty Acid).  Or it may be the reduction in inflammation brought about by the tocopherols and phenolic antioxidants.   Almonds have been shown to consistently reduce oxidized LDLs in your blood after a meal rich in white carbohydrates and sugars.  It’s oxidized LDLs that get your arteries in trouble.   

Walnuts and almonds have been shown to reduce C-Reactive Protein, another marker of inflammation.  This is all pretty good stuff. Developing Diabetes:  The Nurses Study (130,000 nurses for over 30 years) shows that nut consumption is strongly associated with less development of diabetes.  Considering that diabetes turns into heart disease, that makes for two reasons to eat more.  No proven effect on fixing diabetes once you’ve got it, but prevention is ok. 

 Inflammation Reduction.  The above-mentioned effects on reducing inflammation and inflammation’s part in heart disease raises tantalizing questions about cancer prevention. And sure enough, in experimental lab models with tissue culture, the individual antioxidants and oils from nuts do show cancer lowering effects.  So, there’s an area for future research, as there is no current proven effect in humans through any clinical trials.  The symposium suggested there should be. 

 WWW: What Will Work for me?  Well, I love peanut butter.  I mean, I LOVE peanut butter.  It’s a great snack.  One tablespoon, no bread, is just plain delicious and makes me feel full for 3-4 hours.  And pistachios…and walnuts….and almonds….Now, if the peanut butter is one of the major brands and has fructose in it, I can’t help but have three tablespoons.  That I will blame on the fructose and how it inspires my inner elephant to rampage and demand more.  But a handful of almonds in my lunch at work lasts me all day and I’m not starving when I come home.  Think about how you can get 1.5 ounces of nuts, five times a week.  35% less sudden death.

Column written by Dr. John E. Whitcomb, MD, Brookfield Longevity, Brookfield, WI (262-784-5300)