Friday, March 1, 2013

"Eat all the nuts you want." "Really!??" "Really."

  The past few days saw the publication of a major piece of diet / medical research, in the New England Journal Of Medicine.  The NEJM is one of the top peer-reviewed medical journals in the world, highly respected.

  The study, basically, measured the effects of a traditional "Mediterranean diet" - in a large group of people (over 7,000) over a long period of time (median of 4.8 years); in Spain (where access to the correct foods is good.)

  In the world of medical research, this is an extraordinary achievement; it's incredibly hard to follow so many people, for such a long period; but they did it.

  The major reason this hit the news now- the study was shut down.  By the "medical ethics" watchdogs.  Because the results were so very clear, that to continue would be causing unnecessary deaths and illness- in the control group.  They knew it.

  Most of the world media picked this up as another "yes indeed, olive oil is good for you!" story; but that is grossly inaccurate.   Quoting from the NEJM:

   "In a multicenter trial in Spain, we randomly assigned participants who were at high cardiovascular risk, but with no cardiovascular disease at enrollment, to one of three diets: a Mediterranean diet supplemented with extra-virgin olive oil, a Mediterranean diet supplemented with mixed nuts, or a control diet (advice to reduce dietary fat). "

   In plain English; they compared 3 diets; high olive oil; high nuts (instead of olive oil); or common "low-fat" diet.

   The outcome- either the olive or - OR the high nuts diet - reduced death and illness by 30%, over the low-fat diet.  That's essentially the same impact statins have; the miracle drug of the past decades.

   The difference between the high olive oil diet and the high nuts diet (specifically a mixture of "English" walnuts, almonds - and hazelnuts!!) was a matter of a couple percent- not statistically significant.

  Nuts - are good for you.  We - here - knew that.  Now the medical world agrees, fully.

   MORE THAN THAT - there were two aspects to the study that are very hard to sift out of either the technical paper or the popular press versions; but which the NYT writer Gina Kolata hits in her video interview; available at the top of this article.

  Speaking to the researchers; she was amazed to hear them recommend that "people should eat all the nuts they want."  She had trouble believing that- as did her interviewer- so it gets repeated.  Yep; that's what the doctors were saying- with this addendum: "Except at meals."  What?  Because- they fill you up so effectively- you might not eat the fish, fruit, and tomato sauce that are also part of the diet...

   They kind of gloss over the "why" - but it's actually enormously significant.  Nuts satisfy your hunger- to the extent that you stop being hungry.

   In a world plagued with increasing obesity, and obsession with losing weight- can we "sell" that?

   Oh, yes we can.  And for once- getting people to eat more of our food product - will be good for them.

  Notice; our other 2 nut crops weren't included in the study; chestnuts and hickory/pecans- so we shouldn't assume.  But there is abundant evidence they are also, literally, "good" for you; and we're working on the data for that.

1 comment:

  1. No actual nutrional research has been done in this country for the past 40 years. What has been done is a hypothisis was developed that says that fat is bad for us. Any "research" that has been done since has been done to try to perpetuate this idea. Clearly the health of our nation proves that this was incorrect. Monounsaturated fats like from olives and NUTS have always been good for us. As would saturate fats like butter, lard, and tallow. Bad science has deprived our population of these healthy foods. I highly recommend reading the work of Gary Taubes in his book "Good Calories, Bad Calories" or a simpler version is "Why We Get Fat". Also look up a blogging doctor named Peter Attia at "the eating academy". Also, they are togther starting a non-profit organization to fund good clinical trials with the goal of ending obesity. The organization is Called NuSI for the "Nutrional Science Initiative". If we look into these and other low-carb diet resources we should be very excited about any industry that produces mono, fully saturated and omega 3 polyunsaturated fats