What Are the Benefits of Walnuts in the Diet for Diabetes?

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Close up of shelled walnuts.
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Diabetes is a medical condition in which the body does not efficiently utilize insulin, the hormone responsible for regulating blood sugar. In Type 1 diabetes, the body does not produce insulin, whereas in Type 2 diabetes, the body does not produce enough insulin or cells become resistant to insulin. This, in turn, leads to chronic high blood sugar levels that increase the risk for stroke, heart disease, kidney failure and obesity. Consuming walnuts can have beneficial effects.

Blood Vessel Function

An article in the November 2009 issue of "Diabetes Care" reports that researchers from the Yale University School of Medicine explored the effects of walnut consumption on blood vessel function in Type 2 diabetics. Patients followed a diet with or without 56 grams of walnuts for eight weeks, and scientists found that the walnut group experienced improvements in function of blood vessel lining compared to the non-walnut group.

Fasting Insulin Levels

Scientists from the University of Wollongong in Australia examined the long-term effects on metabolic parameters, such as fasting insulin levels, in Type 2 diabetics. They reported in the August 2009 issue of the "European Journal of Clinical Nutrition," that patients consuming 30 grams of walnuts for one year significantly reduced their fasting insulin levels compared to those not consuming walnuts.

Blood Lipid Profile

Lipid profile refers to the ratio of high-density lipoprotein cholesterol to low-density lipoprotein cholesterol. Improving your blood lipid profile reduces the risk for heart disease. University of Wollongong researchers investigated the impact of walnut consumption on blood lipid profiles in Type 2 diabetics, assigning patients to one of three groups: low-fat diet, modified low-fat diet or modified low-fat diet with 30 grams of walnuts. At the end of the six-month study, scientists observed that the walnut group improved their lipid profile compared to the other groups, according to research published in the December 2004 issue of "Diabetes Care."

Diabetic Neuropathy

Walnuts are a rich source of alpha-linolenic acid a healthy omega-3 fatty acid that might improve diabetic neuropathy, a complication of diabetes that results in damaged nerves. In one study, patients with diabetic neuropathy were given varying amounts of ALA over five weeks, while another group took a placebo. The results, published in the November 2006 issue of the journal "Diabetes Care," showed that all ALA groups experienced improvements in diabetic neuropathy symptoms compared to the placebo group. Researchers suggest that 600 milligrams of ALA seems to be the optimal dose. According to the California Walnuts website, 1 ounce of walnuts contains approximately 2.5 grams of ALA.

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