Study finds tree nuts offer major benefits when dieting to lose weight

Incorporating tree nuts like walnuts and cashews into a calorie-deficit diet may help dieters lose weight and keep it off, at least according to a new study from UCLA. The study involved putting two groups of overweight and obese people on a diet, one assigned tree nuts as part of their meals and another assigned pretzels. Though both groups lost weight, the tree nut group experienced some extra benefits.

The study involved 95 adults ages 30 to 68. All of the participants were put on a diet that reduced their caloric intake to 500 fewer calories than their resting metabolic rate, meaning they would naturally lose weight as a result of the diet. The participants dieted for 12 weeks followed by maintaining their weight for another 12 weeks after that.

The big difference between these two groups is the snacks they were assigned: one group was tasked with eating 1.5oz of mixed tree nuts daily, while the other received a similar pretzel snack. Both groups lost notable and similar amounts of weight over the 12-week period and maintained around the same loss over the next 12 weeks.

However, there were some notable benefits in the group given mixed tree nuts instead of pretzels, including 'significantly' higher rates of satiety compared to those given pretzels. Far fewer people dropped out of the study in the tree nuts group as well, plus these participants had a 'significantly' decreased heart rate from the study's baseline compared to the pretzel group.

In explaining these outcomes, the study's lead researcher Zhaoping Li, PhD, MD, said:

Tree nuts (almonds, Brazil nuts, cashews, hazelnuts, macadamias, pecans, pine nuts, pistachios and walnuts) are a great source of protein, healthy fats and fiber. This makes them so satiating and may be a major reason why we saw less weight gain in the tree nut group during weight maintenance, and a significantly lower dropout rate compared to the pretzel group.