British Journal of Nutrition

Review Article

Nuts, metabolic syndrome and diabetes

Cyril W. C. Kendalla1a2a3 c1, Andrea R. Jossea4, Amin Esfahania1a2 and David J. A. Jenkinsa1a2

a1 Department of Nutritional Sciences, Faculty of Medicine, University of Toronto, Toronto, ON, Canada M5S 3E2

a2 Clinical Nutrition and Risk Factor Modification Center, St Michael's Hospital, Toronto, ON, Canada M5C 2T2

a3 College of Pharmacy and Nutrition, University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, SK, Canada S7N 5C9

a4 Department of Kinesiology, McMaster University, Hamilton, ON, Canada L8S 4K1


The ability of nuts to improve the blood lipid profile and reduce the risk of CHD is now well established. The interest that health effects of nuts have gained recently has brought the possible benefits of consuming nuts, such as improvement in the conditions of the metabolic syndrome, and their potential to prevent and control diabetes into focus. Results from cohort studies have associated nut consumption with a reduced risk of developing diabetes and CVD. However, few randomised controlled trials have assessed the effect of nuts on diabetes control, and those that have been undertaken have shown improvements in blood lipids but not in the glycaemic control. Diabetes agencies are increasingly recognising the importance of controlling postprandial glycaemia fluctuations. Acute feeding studies indicate that nuts have minimal effects on rising postprandial blood glucose levels when eaten alone, and diminish the postprandial glycaemic response when consumed with high-glycaemic index carbohydrate foods in both normoglycaemic and type 2 diabetic individuals. Nuts have a healthy nutritional profile, high in MUFA and PUFA, are a good source of vegetable protein and are rich in fibre, vitamins and minerals. Incorporation of nuts in the diet may therefore improve the overall nutritional quality of the diet. While more research is required to establish the ability of nuts to improve glycaemic control in the long run, early data indicate that the inclusion of nuts in the diets of individuals with diabetes and the metabolic syndrome is warranted, in view of their potential to reduce CHD risk.

(Received July 23 2009)

(Revised March 22 2010)

(Accepted March 23 2010)

(Online publication May 05 2010)