Cracking the nut studies

Nuts have been the subject of an increasing number of studies in recent years. And now we have enough studies on the benefits of nut consumption that statistical researchers recently decided to perform a “meta-analysis.” These studies combine all the nut studies together to see what they show overall–kind of like a bowl of mixed nuts.

For this meta-analysis, researchers examined 36 studies on nuts that followed 30,706 patients for five years to 30 years. And they came to several strong conclusions.

First, they found nut consumption reduced overall cancer risk by 15 percent. When it came to specific cancers, nut consumption reduced endometrial cancer risk by 42 percent. It reduced pancreatic cancer risk by 32 percent. And it reduced colon cancer risk by 24 percent.

However, the new meta-analysis did not turn up an association between nut consumption and a reduction in Type II diabetes risk.

But when you look closer, you see why.

First off, the analysis didn’t include the important study on nuts out of Vanderbilt University I reported on recently. The Vanderbilt study found dramatic cardio-metabolic benefits for eating nuts. Several other studies on which I have also reported recently show the short-term effects of nuts on reducing blood sugar and insulin response. But none of these were included in the meta-study either.

Furthermore, why not include two of the largest studies on nuts–the Nurses’ Health Study, which follows 83,818 women in the U.S., and the Shanghai Women’s Health Study, which follows 64,000 women in China? Both these powerhouse studies previously showed that nuts lower Type II diabetes risk.

These kinds of omissions can be one downfall of meta-analyses. As I said earlier this week (and have said before), meta-analyses are only as good as the studies included. And researchers can show strong bias by simply choosing to omit one or two studies from their analysis.

No matter what–there are many reasons why eating nuts is good for your health. Nuts lower your risk of developing gallstones. They also reduce your risk of heart disease, including both fatal and non-fatal heart attacks, and sudden cardiac death. Furthermore, eating nuts does not lead to excess caloric consumption or gains in body weight, contrary to popular belief.

Also, nuts pack a lot of punch nutritionally.

For example, almonds, hazelnuts and walnuts contain high levels of selenium and vitamin E, two powerful antioxidants that protect against cancer formation, and help regulate cell differentiation and proliferation. Plus, the quercetin and resveratrol in almonds, as well as polyphenols in walnuts, inhibit carcinogenesis. And the folic acid in almonds and pine nuts reduces DNA damage. Additionally, pine nuts regulate inflammatory response and immunological activity and induce phase 2 metabolic enzymes. Lastly, all nuts provide essential fatty acids and fiber.

Eating nuts also benefits your mood and mental health. In fact, you can learn more about the mental health benefits of eating nuts and other foods in the current October 2015 issue of Insiders’ Cures. If you’re a newsletter subscriber, you can access this issue by logging onto my website with your username and password. If you’re not yet a subscriber, now is the perfect time to get started.

The best way to harness all these powerful benefits is to eat a handful of mixed nuts daily. I keep a bowl out in my kitchen. So, get cracking this fall.