Effect of tree nuts on glycemic control in diabetes: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled dietary trials

PLoS One. 2014 Jul 30;9(7):e103376. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0103376. eCollection 2014.


Background: Tree nut consumption has been associated with reduced diabetes risk, however, results from randomized trials on glycemic control have been inconsistent.

Objective: To provide better evidence for diabetes guidelines development, we conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials to assess the effects of tree nuts on markers of glycemic control in individuals with diabetes.

Data sources: MEDLINE, EMBASE, CINAHL, and Cochrane databases through 6 April 2014.

Study selection: Randomized controlled trials ≥3 weeks conducted in individuals with diabetes that compare the effect of diets emphasizing tree nuts to isocaloric diets without tree nuts on HbA1c, fasting glucose, fasting insulin, and HOMA-IR.

Data extraction and synthesis: Two independent reviewer's extracted relevant data and assessed study quality and risk of bias. Data were pooled by the generic inverse variance method and expressed as mean differences (MD) with 95% CI's. Heterogeneity was assessed (Cochran Q-statistic) and quantified (I2).

Results: Twelve trials (n = 450) were included. Diets emphasizing tree nuts at a median dose of 56 g/d significantly lowered HbA1c (MD = -0.07% [95% CI:-0.10, -0.03%]; P = 0.0003) and fasting glucose (MD = -0.15 mmol/L [95% CI: -0.27, -0.02 mmol/L]; P = 0.03) compared with control diets. No significant treatment effects were observed for fasting insulin and HOMA-IR, however the direction of effect favoured tree nuts.

Limitations: Majority of trials were of short duration and poor quality.

Conclusions: Pooled analyses show that tree nuts improve glycemic control in individuals with type 2 diabetes, supporting their inclusion in a healthy diet. Owing to the uncertainties in our analyses there is a need for longer, higher quality trials with a focus on using nuts to displace high-glycemic index carbohydrates.

Trial registration: ClinicalTrials.gov NCT01630980.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Blood Glucose*
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / blood*
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / diet therapy*
  • Dietary Supplements
  • Fasting
  • Glycated Hemoglobin
  • Humans
  • Insulin / blood
  • Insulin Resistance
  • Nuts*
  • Publication Bias
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic


  • Blood Glucose
  • Glycated Hemoglobin A
  • Insulin
  • hemoglobin A1c protein, human

Associated data

  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT01630980