More than 100 million American adults have type 2 diabetes or prediabetes, and many more may have the condition and not even know it. Type 2 diabetes is a chronic condition that could largely be prevented through diet and lifestyle interventions. One beneficial change may be to eat more pecans.
Eating Pecans Promotes Metabolic Health
A 2018 study investigated the effects of a pecan-rich diet among overweight individuals with a high risk for diabetes. One group of participants consumed 1.5 oz of pecans a day for 12 weeks, while the other group ate no pecans. Researchers found those on the pecan diet had:
- Improved pancreatic function, specifically of the cells in the pancreas that make insulin.
- Significantly higher levels of insulin in their blood, which helps lower the amount of glucose sugars circulating after a meal.
- Reduced insulin resistance, which means our bodies are more reactive to the insulin our pancreas releases.
All these changes are associated with both a reduced risk of developing type 2 diabetes as well as improving the health of those who have already been diagnosed with diabetes. While this study was relatively small, those are impressive results considering 1.5 oz of pecans is only 1/3 cup pecans a day! Other studies have also found that nuts help prevent or reverse diabetes by promoting healthy body weight and maintaining blood glucose in the target range.
The exact way pecans reduce risk for diabetes is unknown, but here are some ways pecans may be working metabolic magic:
Pecans are a Low Glycemic Index Food
Pecans are a good source of healthy fats, fiber, and protein. These nutrients slow the digestion of meals, causing sugar to be released more gradually into our blood stream. This makes pecans a low glycemic index food, which are often recommended to people with diabetes to maintain more consistent blood glucose levels. High glycemic index foods are those that are broken down too quickly, causing a spike in blood sugar that can be too high for the insulin in our blood to control.
Anti-inflammatory Effects of Pecans
Chronic diseases can increase systematic inflammation, which may worsen diabetes symptoms and put individuals at risk for other co-morbidities. Researchers speculate that the unsaturated fats and antioxidants in pecans reduce systematic inflammation associated with diabetes. Antioxidants may also lower the amount of glucose absorbed in our intestines and protect the pancreas from damage.
Uncontrolled diabetes puts people at risk for developing other chronic diseases, especially heart disease. Prolonged high blood sugar can damage blood vessels, leading to high blood pressure and hypertension. Just as pecans have metabolic benefits, the nuts have also been associated with improving heart health. Check out our article about pecans and heart disease for more information.
Go to www.millicanpecan.com for different pecan recipes to help incorporate more pecans into your diet.
1. Diane L. Mckay, Misha Eliasziw, C. Y. Oliver Chen, and Jeffrey B. Blumberg. "A Pecan-Rich Diet Improves Cardiometabolic Risk Factors in Overweight and Obese Adults: A Randomized Controlled Trial." Nutrients 10.3 (2018): 339. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5872757/pdf/nutrients-10-00339.pdf
2. O'Neil, Carol E, Debra R Keast, Theresa A Nicklas, and Victor L Fulgoni. "Nut Consumption Is Associated with Decreased Health Risk Factors for Cardiovascular Disease and Metabolic Syndrome in U.S. Adults: NHANES 1999-2004." Journal of the American College of Nutrition 30.6 (2011): 502-10. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22331685
3. Kim, Yoona, Jennifer Keogh, and Peter M. Clifton. "Nuts and Cardio-Metabolic Disease: A Review of Meta-Analyses." Nutrients 10.12 (2018): Nutrients, 2018 Dec, Vol.10(12). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30563231