DAVIS, Calif. — There’s little doubt people have done a fair amount of snacking during their time in quarantine. A new study finds what you snack on may help reduce weight and help keep the pounds from coming back. Researchers say adding mixed tree nuts to a dieting program results in noticeable weight loss and improved feelings of fullness.
A team from UCLA compared the dieting efforts of 95 overweight or obese individuals between 30 and 68 years-old. These men and women either consumed 1.5 ounces of mixed tree nuts or a pretzel snack as part of their weight management programs.
Researchers say both snacks provided the group with the same number of calories during the 12-week hypocaloric weight loss diet. Following that period, the group switched to an isocaloric weight maintenance program for another 12 weeks.
Results reveal that both kinds of dieting snacks actually produced about the same amount of weight loss. For tree nuts, dieters lost an average of 3.5 pounds over 12 weeks and 3.3 pounds of 24 weeks. Pretzel eaters lost 4.2 pounds over 12 weeks and 3.1 pounds over 24 weeks. The groups also displayed a significant reduction in BMI (body mass index) during their 12-week diets.
Nuts fill you up better than other snacks
Despite similar weight loss results, study authors also discovered feelings of fullness were much higher in the tree nut group. These dieters also had more success at maintaining their weight in comparison to the pretzel group.
Participants dieting on nuts also had a much lower dropout rate (16.4%) during the experiments compared to pretzel eaters (35.9%). Additionally, researchers note people consuming tree nuts had noticeable reductions in heart rate, something which did not occur for pretzel dieters.
“Tree nuts (almonds, Brazil nuts, cashews, hazelnuts, macadamias, pecans, pine nuts, pistachios and walnuts) are a great source of protein, healthy fats and fiber,” says lead researcher, Zhaoping Li, MD, PhD, Professor of Medicine and Chief of the Division of Clinical Nutrition at UCLA, in a media release. “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.”
According to the CDC, over 40 percent of American adults are overweight of obese. Sheltering in place and living under lockdown orders certainly hasn’t helped matters during the pandemic. Researchers estimate people may be gaining an average of 1.5 pounds each month from less exercise and more snacking.
“We know most people get about 25% of their calories each day from snacks and a large proportion come from desserts, sugar-sweetened beverages, sweets and salty snacks,” Dr. Li adds. “By replacing just one of those snacks with 1.5 ounces of tree nuts may result in a positive impact on weight and overall health.”
The study appears in the journal Nutrients.