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almonds-heartNuts are high in protein and make a delicious, satisfying snack—but did you know they can also help lower your risk of developing heart disease and diabetes? Using data collected over a five-year period through the National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys (NHANES), researchers from Louisiana State University analyzed the diets of more than 13,000 adults, specifically their daily intake of “tree nuts” including pistachios, walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts, Brazil nuts and cashews. Here’s what they found:

Regular tree nut consumers—those who ate at least a quarter of an ounce of nuts daily—were less likely to develop metabolic syndrome, the term given to a group of risk factors associated with heart disease and diabetes (including obesity, high blood pressure and elevated blood sugar levels). The lower prevalence of metabolic syndrome may be linked to the fact that nut eaters also had lower levels of C-reactive protein in the blood, which signals inflammation in the body and is one of the markers doctors use to evaluate the risk of developing coronary artery disease. The same group also had higher levels of “good” cholesterol in the blood, along with lower body mass indexes.

Adding a handful of nuts to the daily diet is a simple thing we can all do to support our daily health. Certain nuts (walnuts in particular) contain beneficial Omega-3 fats that can help balance the body’s inflammation response, along with heart-healthy fiber, vitamin E, potassium and amino acids, which is why Brenda Watson recommends them as part of her Love Your Heart eating plan. Just remember to watch your portion sizes, since nuts do contain some starch—and choose raw nuts that aren’t covered in sugar and salt (which can undermine their health benefits).

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In just the last three decades childhood obesity rates in the United States have more than doubled, and in 2012 over one third of U.S. children and adolescents were overweight or obese.i What impact will it have on their health in adulthood? The answer may come from the results of a new study from Italy—and it may not be a rosy one.

A team of researchers from the Bambino Gesù Children’s Hospital analyzed the health data of more than 5,700 healthy kids between the ages of 2 and 6 years. Roughly 10 percent of the children had become overweight or obese in the last year, and nearly half of that group was already showing signs of being at a higher risk of developing heart disease and diabetes.

Metabolic indicators such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol and elevated blood sugar levels were present even in children who had only been obese for a short period of time, and scientists believe those indicators could lead to health problems earlier in adulthood.

The results prompted researchers to recommend screening kids at a younger age to detect such abnormalities, especially if there is a family history. They also encourage healthy diet and lifestyle choices such as increasing daily physical activity and reducing the amount of trans fats and sugar consumed.

i http://www.cdc.gov/healthyyouth/obesity/facts.htm

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