Nuts are rich in many bioactive compounds that can exert beneficial effects on cardiovascular health. We reviewed the evidence relating nut consumption and the metabolic syndrome (MetS) and its components. Nuts reduce the postprandial glycemic response; however, long-term trials of nuts on insulin resistance and glycemic control in diabetic individuals are inconsistent. Epidemiologic studies have shown that nuts may lower the risk of diabetes incidence in women. Few studies have assessed the association between nuts and abdominal obesity, although an inverse association with body mass index and general obesity has been observed. Limited evidence suggests that nuts have a protective effect on blood pressure and endothelial function. Nuts have a cholesterol-lowering effect, but the relation between nuts and hypertriglyceridemia and high-density lipoprotein cholesterol is not well established. A recent pooled analysis of clinical trials showed that nuts are inversely related to triglyceride concentrations only in subjects with hypertriglyceridemia. An inverse association was found between the frequency of nut consumption and the prevalence and the incidence of MetS. Several trials evaluated the effect of nuts on subjects with MetS and found that they may have benefits in some components. Compared with a low-fat diet, a Mediterranean diet enriched with nuts could be beneficial for MetS management. The protective effects on metabolism could be explained by the modulation of inflammation and oxidation. Further trials are needed to clarify the role of nuts in MetS prevention and treatment.
© 2014 American Society for Nutrition.