Pistachios May Help Reduce Diabetes Risk: Study

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) -

For people who may be headed for type 2 diabetes, regularly eating pistachios might help turn the tide, according to a new trial.

In the new Spanish study, people with prediabetes who ate about two 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.

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.

“Although pistachios were examined in this work, I believe that any beneficial effects on glucose metabolism are shared by all nuts, as they have a general composition with lots of bioactive compounds liable to beneficially affect biological pathways leading to insulin resistance and diabetes,” said Dr. Emilio Ros, director of the Lipid Clinic of the Endocrinology and Nutrition Service at Hospital Clínic in Barcelona. He was not part of the new study.

“The nut industry always supports clinical or experimental studies with their nuts, otherwise no such studies would be carried out,” Ros told Reuters Health.

He believes the evidence is strong enough for people with prediabetes to add pistachios, or other nuts like peanuts, to their diet, and recommends about “a handful” per day, or around one serving.

“This particular study builds on previous research on pistachios,” said Dr. Joan Sabate, professor of nutrition and epidemiology.

“There are some indications that eating pistachios on a regular basis lowers fasting glucose and lowers insulin and hormone ratio, which is particularly relevant in prediabetic subjects because unless they do a change in lifestyle they will end up being diabetic,” he told Reuters Health.

“So the fact that eating nuts on a regular basis seems to improve some of the critical parameters is very relevant.”