Say nuts to avoid obesity and dementia

Weight loss is never an easy nut to crack, but a handful (30–50g) of almonds a day could keep extra kilos at bay, according to a study led by Dr Sharayah Carter of the University of South Australia.

The study found that people who consumed almonds – rather than an energy-equivalent carbohydrate snack – lowered their energy intake by 300 kilojoules at their next meal, mainly by eating less junk food.

“Our research is focused on finding healthy satiating snack foods to assist people with weight management,” said Dr Carter. “Almonds are high in unsaturated fat, protein and fibre and these properties help to keep you feeling full, which is useful when trying to reduce energy intake. 

“Eating a small handful of almonds may be a simple strategy to help with appetite regulation.”

People who ate almonds had lower C-peptide, higher glucagon and pancreatic polypeptide responses. C-peptide affects diabetes, glucagon sends satiety signals to the brain, while pancreatic polypeptide slows digestion which may reduce food intake. Both encourage weight loss.

“What makes almonds so special is they are a great snack that is high in monounsaturated fats, protein and fibre, which may contribute to their satiating properties and help explain why fewer kilojoules were consumed,” said Dr Carter.

“Other nuts also have similar nutrient properties that are satiating.”

Dr Carter says the small change in people’s energy intake may have clinical effects in the long term.

“Even small, positive lifestyle changes can have an impact over a longer period. When we’re making small, sustainable changes, we’re more likely to be improving our overall health in the long run.”

The research was published in the European Journal of Nutrition, last month.

Nuts were also the subject of research by scientists at the University of New South Wales.

A team led by Professor Henry Brodaty found that a diet rich in nuts and legumes (such as peas, beans and lentils) can reduce cognitive decline as we age.

This research was part of the long running Sydney Memory and Aging Study.

Eight hundred Syneysiders were screened for cognitive impairment with follow ups at two, four and six years after entering the study. They were also asked about their medical history, alcohol consumption, exercise and smoking habits.

Dietary intake was assessed by an 80-item food frequency questionnaire. Results were scored for closeness to recognised diets and were combined statistically into two patterns named the Prudent healthy diet and Western dietary pattern.

The Prudent healthy diet was positively associated with better cognition among older women. This diet was high in yellow, green leafy, cruciferous and other vegetables, as well as nuts, legumes and garlic.

By contrast, a Western dietary pattern comprising foods high in saturated fat and sugar, including full fat dairy, butter, flavoured milk and cakes, was associated with worse cognition among men. 

Drilling down further into the data they found that higher intakes of legumes and nuts were associated with better scores in many cognition domains. 

Nuts and legumes are rich in plant-based protein, fibre and anti-inflammatory agents which may affect gut microflora and in turn affect cognitive health.

The researchers say that it may be the synergy of nutrients in nuts and legumes that provide this neuro-protective effect. Both food categories have a very low glycaemic index (GI). Other food groups showed no association with cognition. 

No link was observed between fish and overall cognitive performance. Moderate alcohol consumption was positively related to better cognition, but not when heart disease issues were taken into account.

The research was published in the Journal of Nutrition, Health and Aging last year.

So perhaps a handful of almonds will help you lose weight and delay the onset of dementia.

Previous articleDiscover Chapels; Mayland’s unique café and tea store 
Next articleFeel the wind in your hair…
Frank Smith was trained as an agricultural scientist in the UK, moving to WA in 1974 and shortly afterwards began lecturing at WAIT (now Curtin University) in soils and agronomy. In 1979 he joined the Agriculture Protection Board in charge of publications and media relations, studying part time for a degree in Journalism. In 1992 he spent a year as a visiting professor at the University of Missouri-Columbia. Later he ran a small publication company with his wife Mary-Helen. He then began freelance writing, editing and book indexing. He has written articles for more than 40 magazines in four continents and indexed more than 20 books. In 2007 he started writing for Have a Go News and gradually reduced his writing for other publications. He later took over the subediting, ensuring Have a Go News is consistent in style and highly readable. He and Mary-Helen live in a passive solar home in the Perth Hills with a varying collection of quendas and native birds.