Eating three small handfuls of nuts a week appears to lower the risk for teens of developing conditions that raise the chances of heart disease later in life, new research suggests.
In the study, nut-eating teens had less than half the risk for developing metabolic syndrome as those who did not eat nuts.
Metabolic syndrome is a cluster of symptoms that heighten the risk of early heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
The bad news is that despite the health benefits of nuts, roughly 75 percent of U.S. teens don’t eat them on a typical day, the study authors said.
Metabolic syndrome is a major public health problem. However, the findings at this stage show only a correlation and do not prove that the risk of metabolic disease in teens will go down by eating nuts.
About one in nine teens has metabolic syndrome, prior research has shown. The diagnosis is made when a child over age 10 is found to have at least three telltale conditions: obesity in the abdominal region, high triglycerides, low “good” cholesterol (HDL), high blood pressure or high blood sugar.
The research team found that every additional gram of nuts consumed per day led to a drop in metabolic syndrome risk, though the benefit topped out at 50 grams per day (equal to ~2 ounces).
The benefit may be traced back to the unsaturated fat and fiber typically found in nuts. That said, less than 9 percent of teens were found to consume the minimum amount of nuts needed to see a benefit.
The finding comes on the heels of another study released earlier that eating nuts, including peanut butter, is linked to a lower risk of death from heart disease.