It used to be that dieters were told not to eat fat. No more.
Dieters who eat the right kinds of fats – those that come from vegetables and especially nuts and not animal sources – fared the best in this study.
The Spanish study was published in the December 8th issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine.
In it, 1,224 people ages 55 to 80, some at high risk for cardiovascular disease, were assigned to one of three groups.
The control group tried a low-fat diet, the other two groups received quarterly education about the Mediterranean diet.
One Mediterranean diet group added one liter per week of virgin olive oil. The other Mediterranean diet group added 30 grams of mixed nuts.
About 61 percent suffered from metabolic syndrome and were distributed evenly among the three groups. Metabolic syndrome is believed to be a precursor to cardiovascular disease and it’s estimated that 50 million Americans have metabolic syndrome.
Metabolic syndrome, defined as:
- a large waistline or an "apple shape"
- a higher than normal triglyceride level in the blood (that might require medication)
- a lower than normal level of high-density lipoprotein or HDL cholesterol
- higher than normal blood pressure
- and a higher than normal fasting blood sugar
A person with at least three of the symptoms has metabolic syndrome. It affects more than half of the older population about one-quarter of people in the developed countries, according to Bloomberg.
Who fared best?
After one year, all three groups had fewer people with metabolic syndrome but the group eating the Mediterranean diet with added nuts had the most improvement.
The prevalence of those with metabolic syndrome on the Mediterranean diet decreased almost 14 percent. Those eating nuts led the improvement, now with 52 percent having those heart risk factors. In the olive oil group, 57 percent had the syndrome. In the low-fat group, there was very little difference after a year in the percentage of people with the syndrome.
Researchers believe the Mediterranean diet with added nuts, improves the metabolic syndrome, insulin resistance and chronic inflammation, and may protect against heart disease.
"What's most surprising is they found substantial metabolic benefits in the absence of calorie reduction or weight loss," Dr. JoAnn Manson, chief of preventive medicine at Harvard's Brigham and Women's Hospital said to AP.
People who improved the most added three whole walnuts, seven or eight whole hazelnuts and seven or eight whole almonds.
They did not lose weight but reduced belly fat, cholesterol and blood pressure.
Nuts should be added to a diet to replace junk food such as chips and cookies, not in addition to the typical Western diet.
Nuts help people feel full while also increasing the body's ability to burn fat, said lead author Dr. Jordi Salas-Salvado of the University of Rovira i Virgili in Reus, Spain to Associated Press.
"Nuts could have an effect on metabolic syndrome by multiple mechanisms," Salas-Salvado said in an e-mail. Nuts are rich in anti-inflammatory substances, such as fiber, and antioxidants, such as vitamin E. They are high in unsaturated fat, a healthier fat known to lower blood triglycerides and increase good cholesterol.
Salas-Salvado and another co-author disclose that they are unpaid advisers to nut industry groups. They add their research has been conducted under “standard ethical and scientific rules.” Peer-review journal editors determined their results were not influenced by food industry ties.
Look for minimally processed (you may have to cook)
Use olive oil rather than butter or margarine
Consume nuts and vegetables (nuts add fiber, potassium, the amino acid arginine, calcium and magnesium)
Fish is the first choice for meat. Salmon or oily fish is good. Limit red meat consumption
Choose fruit for dessert
A glass of wine a day is okay (maximum consumption)
The Atkins diet, Fat Flush diet and South Beach diet all are low-carbohydrate. All but the Atkins advocate eating nuts. #