It turns out that this myth is crazy.
For decades it was widely believed that eating nuts caused weight gain.
Nuts in particular are high in calories and fat, creating skepticism as to whether they should be incorporated into a healthy diet.
But a groundbreaking new study published in Nutrients has revealed that nuts don’t make people pack on the pounds—and can actually lead to belly fat loss.
Scientists from Vanderbilt University Medical Center examined 84 millennial adults (ages 22-36)—a demographic group that has increasing rates of Metabolic Syndrome (MetSx), a group of conditions that increase the risk for heart disease and diabetes.
Millennials had at least one MetSx risk factor, such as high blood pressure, high blood glucose, excess body fat around the waist, or abnormal blood cholesterol levels.
Participants were fed either 1 ounce of unsalted mixed nuts, such as pistachios, or 1 ounce of a carbohydrate-based snack, such as unsalted pretzels or graham crackers, twice a day for 16 weeks. They made no additional dietary restrictions or changes in lifestyle habits.
“We specifically designed the study to be able to investigate the independent effects of nut consumption on body weight by ensuring that the number of calories participants consumed during the 16-week intervention period matched the amount of calories they expended each day. one of the overall strengths of the study design and results,” said Heidi J. Silver, PhD, RD, of VUMC, in a press release.
The researchers found that the group consuming nuts had significant health benefits, with a 67% reduced risk of MetSx for women and a 42% reduced risk of MetSx for men.
Those in the nut-eating group also saw no change in energy intake or body weight over the 16-week period.
For women, the study found that eating nuts led to reduced abdominal fat — which can lead to MetSx, diabetes and heart disease. For men, the research showed that eating nuts reduced insulin levels in the blood.
The nut-eating group was also able to convert fat consumption into energy more efficiently than those who ate the carbohydrate-based snack – which could be why the nut-eating group didn’t maintain body weight or fat.
“This carefully designed and well-controlled study shows that eating nuts like peanuts need not lead to weight gain and can be an important part of everyone’s health care routine in 2024,” Silver explained. .
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans claim that more than half of Americans currently do not meet the daily recommendation of five to seven ounces of nuts and seeds per week.
However, the authors noted that further research needs to be conducted on the cardiometabolic response to nuts in other population subgroups.