Nuts may help lower teenagers' risk of metabolic syndrome

March 9, 2015

Modest consumption of nuts every day is associated with an improved cardiovascular risk profile among adolescents, a new analysis of a large national database shows. The study results will be presented Friday at the Endocrine Society's 97th annual meeting in San Diego.

Adolescents who ate at least 12.9 grams (g) per day of nuts— the equivalent of eating a small handful three times per week—had less than half the odds of non-eaters for developing metabolic syndrome. This syndrome is a cluster of clinical features that heightens the risk of early heart disease and type 2 diabetes.

The study sample was 2,233 U.S. adolescents, ages 12 to 19 years, who participated in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) between 2003 and 2010.

"The surprising finding," said the study's lead investigator Roy Kim, MD, MPH, an assistant professor of pediatrics at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center and Children's Health in Dallas, "is that, in spite of what we know about their benefits, the majority of teens eat no nuts at all on a typical day."

Only 8.9 percent of teenagers consumed 12.9 g/day or more of or peanuts— less than half an ounce or one-eighth of a cup —Kim said. Whites ate twice as many nuts as Latinos or non-Hispanic blacks: 0.22 ounces per day on average versus about 0.11 ounces for the other ethnic groups. But more than 75% of all teens reported eating no nuts at all.

The researchers discovered that metabolic syndrome risk decreased with each additional gram per day of nut intake, but only up to 50 g/day (about 1.8 ounces), when the benefit tapered off. Kim theorized that at higher intakes, any benefits may have been offset by eating too many calories.

Tree nuts contain heart-healthy unsaturated fats, fiber and other nutrients but are high in calories, according to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

A relationship between eating nuts and improved metabolic health has been described in adults, but not previously in adolescents, Kim stated.

"Metabolic syndrome is a major public health problem," Kim said. "Our findings at this stage show only a correlation and do not prove that the risk of metabolic disease in teens will go down by eating . However, the results suggest the possibility that a simple dietary recommendation could have a significant impact on the metabolic health of adolescents."

One in nine U.S. teenagers has metabolic syndrome, according to older NHANES data.

Children age 10 or older receive a diagnosis of if they have any three of these features (using age-and sex-based norms): abdominal obesity, elevated triglycerides, low HDL or "good" cholesterol, high blood pressure and high blood sugar.

Explore further: Eating tree nuts results in 'modest decreases' in blood fats and sugars, survey finds

Related Stories

Study links nut intake with lower risks of obesity

January 8, 2014

A new study , published today in the online journal PLOS ONE, looks at the association between tree nuts (almonds, Brazil nuts, cashews, hazelnuts, macadamias, pecans, pine nuts, pistachios and walnuts), metabolic syndrome ...

Study results may help people with type 2 diabetes

June 24, 2014

Findings from a new study (i) published in Nutrition, Metabolism & Cardiovascular Diseases show that the fatty acids in nuts have the potential to help reduce the risk of coronary heart disease (CHD) in people with type 2 ...

Recommended for you

Exercise and vitamin D better together for heart health

April 27, 2017

Johns Hopkins researchers report that an analysis of survey responses and health records of more than 10,000 American adults for nearly 20 years suggests a "synergistic" link between exercise and good vitamin D levels in ...

'Diet' products can make you fat, study shows

April 25, 2017

High-fat foods are often the primary target when fighting obesity, but sugar-laden "diet" foods could be contributing to unwanted weight gain as well, according to a new study from the University of Georgia.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.