Pistachios and Diabetes

What You Need to Know: A rndomized clinical trial demonstrates that a pistachio-rich det can significantly reduce fasting glucose (sugar), insulin, and insulin resistance in pre-diabetic individuals.

Summary Points

  • Two ounces of pistacio nuts per day for 4 months in prediabetic individuals significantly reduced fasting blood glucose and insulin resistance compared to a control group.
  • No significant differences were found in lipid profiles between the pistachio-rich diet and control groups.

Who was studied? The study included 54 Spanish adults with prediabetes.

How was the study done? Participants were divided into two groups. Both groups followed a normal healthy diet for 2 weeks. Then, for the next 4 months, one group followed a diet that included 2 ounces of pistachio nuts per day, and the other group followed a similar diet without pistachio nuts. All participants then ate a normal diet for another 2 weeks. Finally, for another 4-month period, the two groups crossed over, eating the opposite diet from the one they had followed during the first 4-month period. Researchers collected health information and laboratory test results at 1) the start of the study, 2) after the first 2 weeks of the normal diet, and then 3) every month throughout the study.

What did the researchers find? Glucose and insulin levels and other signs of insulin resistance were lower after participants followed the diet with pistachio nuts than after they followed the diet without nuts. Several other measures linked to diabetes and heart disease risk also improved after the pistachio nut diet. In addition, participants had higher levels of glucagona hormone produced by the alpha cells in the pancreas. It raises blood glucose. An injectable form of glucagon, available by prescription, may be used to treat severe hypoglycemia.

What were the limitations of the study? This study focused on people with prediabetes, so its results may not apply to healthy people or to those individuals with diabetes.

What are the implications of the study? Eating a handful of pistachio nuts per day as part of a healthy diet may help people with prediabetes improve their condition and avoid diabetes and other diseases. Because nuts are high in calories, people who are concerned about weight gain should adjust other parts of their diet so they can add nuts without boosting their total daily calories.

The small print: The material presented herein is informational only, and is not designed to provide specific guidance for an individual. Please check with a valued health care provider with any questions or concerns. As for me, I am a Harvard- , Yale- and UPenn-educated radiation oncologist, and I practice in the Seattle, WA (USA) area. I feel genuinely privileged to be able to share with you. If you enjoyed today’s offering, please consider clicking the follow button at the bottom of this page.

Available now: Understand Colon Cancer in 60 Minutes; Understand Brain Glioma in 60 Minutes. Both can be found at the Apple Ibooks store. Coming Soon for iPad: Understand Breast Cancer in 60 Minutes; Understand Colon Cancer in 60 Minuteable now: Understand Colon Cancer in 60 Minutes; Understand Brain Glioma in 60 Minutes. Thank you.

Reference: Diabetes Care 2014;37:3098-3105.

IS Breast Cancer Gene Linked to Obesity and Diabetes?

DNA genes

What You Need To Know: The gene known to be associated with breast cancer susceptibility, BRCA 1, plays a critical role in the normal metabolic function of skeletal muscle, according to a new study. Mutations in the BRCA1 gene may also put people at increased risk for metabolic diseases like obesity and type 2 diabetes, this research indicates.

Background: The gene known to be associated with breast cancer susceptibility, BRCA 1, plays a critical role in the normal metabolic function of skeletal muscle, according to a new study led by University of Maryland School of Public Health researchers. Dr. Espen Spangenburg, associate professor of kinesiology, and his laboratory team are the first to identify that the BRCA1 protein is expressed in the skeletal muscle of both mice and humans, and that it plays a key role in fat storage, insulin response and mitochondrial function in skeletal muscle cells.

“Our findings suggest that certain mutations in the BRCA1 gene may put people at increased risk for metabolic diseases like obesity and type 2 diabetes,” said Dr. Spangenburg. “Without BRCA1, muscle cells store excess fat and start to look diabetic. We believe that the significance of the BRCA1 gene goes well beyond breast cancer risk.”

The Evidence: Dr. Spangenburg and colleagues, including researchers from the University of Maryland School of Medicine, Brigham Young University, Karolinska Institutet in Sweden, and East Carolina University, found that the BRCA1 protein exists in both mouse and in human skeletal muscle. This is the first evidence since the discovery of BRCA1 in 1994 that the gene is expressed in human muscle cells.

  • They further established that the protein produced by the BRCA 1 gene binds with a protein known to play an important role in the metabolism of fat in muscle cells known as Acetyl-CoA carboxylase or ACC. After a period of exercise, the BRCA 1 protein binds to ACC, which helps “turns it off.” This deactivation of ACC encourages the utilization of fatty acids by the muscle.
  • Once they established that the two proteins complex together, they sought to answer if BRCA1 plays a critical role in regulating muscle metabolic function. To do so, they “knocked out” the gene so that it was no longer being expressed in the muscle cells cultured from healthy, active and lean female subjects. This was done using shRNA technology specific for BRCA1 in human myotubes (skeletal muscle fiber cells).

The result was that the muscle cells started to look diseased. The removal of BRCA1 from the cells, which simulated what could happen in the cells of a person with a BRCA1 mutation, resulted in increased lipid storage, decreased insulin signaling, reduced mitochondrial function and increased oxidative stress. These are all key risk factors for the development of metabolic diseases, such as obesity, type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

“Our findings make it clear that BRCA1 plays a protective role against the development of metabolic disease,” Dr. Spangenburg explains. “This gene needs to be there, and should be considered a target to consider in the treatment of type 2 diabetes and/or obesity.”

I’m Dr. Michael Hunter.

The small print: The material presented herein is informational only, and is not designed to provide specific guidance for an individual. Please check with a valued health care provider with any questions or concerns. As for me, I am a Harvard- , Yale- and UPenn-educated radiation oncologist, and I practice in the Seattle, WA (USA) area. I feel genuinely privileged to be able to share with you. If you enjoyed today’s offering, please consider clicking the follow button at the bottom of this page.

Available now: Understand Colon Cancer in 60 Minutes; Understand Brain Glioma in 60 Minutes. Both can be found at the Apple Ibooks store. Coming Soon for iPad:  Understand Breast Cancer in 60 Minutes; Understand Colon Cancer in 60 Minute; Understand Colon Cancer in 60 Minutes; Understand Brain Glioma in 60 Minutes. Thank you.

References:

1. K. C. Jackson, E.-K. Gidlund, J. Norrbom, A. P. Valencia, D. M. Thomson, R. A. Schuh, P. D. Neufer, E. E. Spangenburg. BRCA1 is a Novel Regulator of Metabolic Function in Skeletal Muscle.. The Journal of Lipid Research, 2014; DOI: 10.1194/jlr.M043851;

2. University of Maryland. “Breast cancer gene could play critical role in obesity, diabetes.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 12 March 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/03/140312114836.htm>.

Want To Stay Young? Start Moving.

women walking exercise

A new study finds that exercise among older adults helps ward off depressiondementia and other health problems, such as heart diseasecancer and diabetes. Exercise increased the odds of healthy aging as much as sevenfold, the researchers found. And apparently it’s never too late to start: Even adults who don’t begin exercising until they’re older could increase their odds of healthy aging threefold, the researchers said.

“In a growing elderly population, it is important to encourage healthy aging. Physical activity is effective in maintaining health in old age,” said lead researcher Mark Hamer, from the department of epidemiology and public health at University College London, in England.

For the study, Hamer and his colleagues collected data on nearly 3,500 people with an average age of 64 who took part in the English Longitudinal Study of Aging.

As part of the study, the participants reported their level of physical activity every two years between 2002-’03 and 2010-’11. The researchers categorized the participants by how much exercise they did each week. There were those who were inactive, those who did moderate exercise and those who exercised vigorously.

People who partook in moderate or vigorous physical activity at least once a week were three to four times more likely to be healthy agers, compared with those who remained inactive, the researchers found. Moreover, people who were active at the start of the study were seven times more likely to be healthy agers than people who were inactive and remained so, the researchers found.

My Take: Want to stay healthy? Get moving. I’m Dr. Michael Hunter.

The small print: The material presented herein is informational only, and is not designed to provide specific guidance for an individual. Please check with a valued health care provider with any questions or concerns. As for me, I am a Harvard- , Yale- and UPenn-educated radiation oncologist, and I practice in the Seattle, WA (USA) area. I feel genuinely privileged to be able to share with you. If you enjoyed today’s offering, please consider clicking the follow button at the bottom of this page.

Available now: Understand Colon Cancer in 60 Minutes; Understand Brain Glioma in 60 Minutes. Both can be found at the Apple Ibooks store. Coming Soon for iPad:  Understand Breast Cancer in 60 Minutes; Understand Colon Cancer in 60 Minute; Understand Colon Cancer in 60 Minutes; Understand Brain Glioma in 60 Minutes. Thank you.

Reference: The report was published online Nov. 25 in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.

Nuts: Can They Lower the Risk of Diabetes?

English: a walnut and a walnut core

First of all, I should state what may be obvious: There is an epidemic of type 2 diabetes in the USA and in the world. Fortunately, lifestyle and diet are key drivers of the phenomenon, so there is hope that we can change the incidence of the disease. Research suggests that the type of fat eaten may play a role. Higher intake of polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) and monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs – don’t say it like Sam Jackson) and lower consumption of saturated fat and trans fat lowers the risk of type 2 diabetes.

Recent study: A prospective study done as part of the Nurses’ Health Study (NHS)and the NHS II looked at walnuts and other nuts. The goal? To better understand the nut-diabetes reduction link. They also tracked body mass index.

The results: Tree nut and peanut consumption are linked to lower rates of the development of diabetes, but not when adjusted for body mass index. On the other hand, walnuts appear to be independently associated with a lower rate of development of type 2 diabetes, even when adjusted for body mass index. More than 2 servings per week reduced risk by about a third!

My take: We probably should eat nuts, especially walnuts. In moderation, of course. Watch out for the caloric density of the nuts, and remember to aim for a health body mass index of 20-25. But… maybe the consumers of walnuts in the study also ate more health foods. There was no subgroup analysis to remove confounding variables like that. Still, I personally eat half a dozen walnuts 2 to 3 times per week.

The small print: The material presented herein is informational only, and is not designed to provide specific guidance for an individual. Please check with a valued health care provider with any questions or concerns. As for me, I am a Harvard- , Yale- and UPenn-educated radiation oncologist, and I practice in the Seattle, WA (USA) area. I feel genuinely privileged to be able to share with you. If you enjoyed today’s offering, please consider clicking the follow button at the bottom of this page.

Coming Soon for iPad:  Understand Breast Cancer in 60 Minutes; Understand Colon Cancer in 60 Minutes. Available now: Understand Colon Cancer in 60 Minutes; Understand Brain Glioma in 60 Minutes. All can be found at the Apple Ibooks store. Thank you.