Teens go nuts--and stay healthier

A new analysis suggests a link between nut intake in teens and a reduced risk of metabolic syndrome.

Teenagers may drive their parents nuts, but eating nuts may drive down teens’ chances of developing metabolic syndrome. Metabolic syndrome includes clinical conditions like high blood pressure and high blood sugar, which boost the risk of early heart disease and type 2 diabetes. A new analysis of a large national database suggests the link. The study, led by a doctor at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center and Children’s Health in Dallas, will be presented Friday at the Endocrine Society’s 97th annual meeting in San Diego, California. It was noted on medicalxpress.com.

Adolescents who ate the equivalent of a small handful of nuts three times per week (the equivalent of 12.9 grams daily), cut their chances of developing metabolic syndrome in half, according to the study. The study included 2,233 U.S. adolescents ages 12 to 19 years who participated in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey between 2003 and 2010. The researchers discovered that metabolic syndrome risk decreased with each additional gram per day of nuts eaten, but only up to 50 g/day (about 1.8 ounces), when the benefit tapered off. This might be because the benefits were negated by the calories in the nuts, according to the study’s lead investigator, Roy Kim, MD, MPH of UT’s pediatrics department.

A relationship between eating nuts and improved metabolic health has been described in adults but not previously in adolescents, Kim told medicalxpress.com. "Metabolic syndrome is a major public health problem," Kim said. "Our findings at this stage show only a correlation and do not prove that the risk of metabolic disease in teens will go down by eating nuts. However, the results suggest the possibility that a simple dietary recommendation could have a significant impact on the metabolic health of adolescents."

Do most kids eat enough nuts to help stave off the syndrome? Nope. Less than nine percent of teenagers consume 12.9 grams per day or peanuts, according to Kim.

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