Researchers found that a greater intake of nuts is associated with a healthier profile of inflammatory biomarkers, suggesting reduced risks for heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
The next time you find yourself strolling the grocery aisles searching for healthy snack options, you may want to consider picking up a few bags of nuts. Nuts are loaded with nutrients, rich in unsaturated and omega-3 fatty acids, and are packed with protein, fiber, minerals, vitamins, and antioxidants. Nuts are especially good for heart health – in moderation. Previous studies have consistently shown that an increased consumption of nuts is associated with a lowered risk for cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes, and also contributes to a healthy fat profile. But what is the link between nuts, and heart disease or type 2 diabetes?
The development of heart disease and type 2 diabetes can be linked back to inflammation in the body. Inflammation is a key process in the development of atherosclerosis – an arterial disease characterized by plaque deposits on the arteries – which is linked to future risk of cardiovascular disease. Chronic inflammation is also linked to the development of type 2 diabetes.
Inflammation in the body can be measured by the presence of inflammatory biomarkers. The Taber’s Cyclopedic Medical Dictionary defines biomarkers as “biochemical, genetic, or molecular indicators that can be used to screen diseases.” Biomarkers are objective, quantifiable characteristics and can range from cholesterol and blood pressure levels to complex blood and tissue tests.
A recently published study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition investigated the associations between usual nut consumption and inflammation, by measuring three inflammatory biomarkers in particular:
- C-reactive protein (CRP): A protein made by the liver and released into the blood in response to causes of inflammation such as injury or infection.
- Interleukin-6 (IL-6): A protein produced at sites of inflammation
- Tumor necrosis factor receptor 2 (TNFR2): A protein mediator or cytokine that helps regulate the immune response and fat metabolism, among others.
For this study, researchers analyzed data from a total of 5013 individuals, obtained from two ongoing prospective studies, the Nurses’ Health Study (NHS) and the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study (HPFS). Participants from these two studies answered food frequency questionnaires (FFQs) every four years. For these questionnaires, the participants reported how often they consumed certain food and beverages, including nuts. Individuals also provided blood samples, and the researchers analyzed the blood samples for the inflammatory biomarkers.
The researchers found that greater nut intake was associated with lower concentrations of inflammatory biomarkers. More specifically, they found lower CRP and IL-6 concentrations, but did not observe any signification association with TNFR2.
They concluded that their findings support the healthy benefits of nuts in reducing inflammation, which in turn reduces future risks of cardiometabolic diseases.
Written By: Jessica Gelar, HBSc