For people who may be headed for type 2 diabetes, regularly eating pistachios might help turn the tide, according to a small nutrition trial from Spain.
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People with so-called prediabetes have blood sugar levels higher than normal but not yet in the diabetes range. If they do nothing, 15 to 30 percent will develop diabetes within five years, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
In the new Spanish study, people with prediabetes who ate about 2 ounces of pistachios daily showed significant drops in blood sugar and insulin levels and improvements in insulin and glucose processing. Some signs of inflammation also dropped dramatically.
Although the trial specifically involved pistachios, many previous studies have found encouraging evidence that eating nuts may be linked to a lower risk of heart disease and lower cholesterol, the authors write in Diabetes Care.
The study team divided 54 prediabetic adults into two groups. Both groups were instructed to keep to a calorie-regulated diet with 50 percent of energy from carbohydrates, 35 percent from fat and 15 percent from protein, using provided menus and seasonal recipes.
One group was given 57 grams of pistachios, about two ounces, daily to add to their diets. To match those calories, the comparison group added olive oil and other fats for the four months of the study.
By the end of the study, fasting blood sugar levels, insulin and hormonal markers of insulin resistance had decreased in the pistachio group while they rose in the comparison group.
Participants’ weight did not significantly change by the end of the study in either group. But glucose use by immune cells involved in inflammation, as well as circulating inflammatory signaling molecules both dropped in the pistachio group, the authors note.