Nuts Don’t Cause Expected Weight Gain

Nuts Don’t Cause Expected Weight Gain
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Nuts are packed with nutrition, but they are also packed with calories. Why, then, don’t nuts seem to make people fat?  In my video Nuts and Obesity: The Weight of Evidence, I profile a review published back in 2007 looking at about 20 clinical trials that had been done on nuts and weight. Not a single one showed the weight gain one would expect.

All of the studies either showed less weight gain than predicted, no weight gain at all, or actual weight loss—even after study subjects added a handful or two of nuts per day to their diet. However, the studies lasted just a few weeks or months. What about long-term?

Maybe in the short run nuts don’t lead to weight gain as much as other foods, but what about after years of eating nuts? Well that’s been examined six different ways in studies lasting up to eight years. One found no significant change and the other five out of six measures found significantly less weight gain and risk of abdominal obesity in those eating more nuts.

Since that review is now 5 years old, in my Weight of Evidence video I update it to include all of the studies published since, including a number published this year. For example, in 2012 there was study in which people added over a hundred pistachios to their daily diets for three months and didn’t gain a pound. How did 30,000 calories disappear?

What happened to the missing calories? The mystery has been solved. In my video series that started with Solving the Mystery of the Missing Calories, I presented the “pistachio principle” and the fecal excretion theory.  In my next video these theories were put to the test.  I then explored the Dietary Compensation Theory, and by the final video in the series we had figured it out.

Part of the trick seemed to be that nuts boost fat burning within the body. But how? It could have something to do with the amino acid arginine (see my 2-min. video Fat Burning via Arginine) or the phytonutrients found in nuts and green tea (Fat Burning via Flavonoids).

Since nut consumption has been associated with lower rates of heart disease and living a longer life we should include them in our regular diet without worrying that they’re going to make us fat.

-Michael Greger, M.D.

PS: You can subscribe to my videos for free by clicking here.

Image credit: jypsygen / Flickr

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  • Chris

    Does it matter what type of nut and were the nuts raw?

    • Marisa R.

      Yes, does it matter whether the nuts are raw or roasted? And what about salt? My dad eats packaged “mixed nuts” every day and my mom is convinced that they’re contributing to his weight gain.

  • http://www.facebook.com/yoshi10usa Yoshi Nakayama

    If you count calories, how can you explain that you will gain 50 gram of weight when you eat 10 gram of sugar candy? Conservation of mass in physics should exist. Counting calories is a myth. What do you think?

    • http://www.DonForresterMD.com/ Don Forrester MD

      The laws of physics do apply but “weight” loss or gain is complicated by a variety of factors. Calories are important but more important is calorie density. We tend to eat to satisfy our hunger which is calmed by stretch and fat receptors in stomach plus nutrients absorbed into body. Weight loss or gain can be due to changes in muscle mass, water, fecal material and/or fat. In working with patients at the McDougall clinic who are eating a low fat starch based diet I observe weight loss during their stay based on fat loss(less calories consumed while satisfying their hunger), water loss(less sodium intake) and faecal loss(due to increase in transit time). The best introduction to the concept of calorie density is the DVD by Jeff Novick, Calorie Density: Eat More, Weigh less and Live Longer. Doug Lisle’s presentation, How to lose weight without losing your mind” seen on you tube.. The laws of physics do apply but “weight” loss or gain is complicated by
      a variety of factors. Calories are important but more important is
      calorie density. We tend to eat to satisfy our hunger which is calmed by
      stretch and fat receptors in stomach plus nutrients absorbed into body.
      Weight loss or gain can be due to changes in muscle mass, water, fecal
      material and/or fat. In working with patients at the McDougall clinic
      who are eating a low fat starch based diet I observe weight loss during
      their stay based on fat loss(less calories consumed while satisfying
      their hunger), water loss(less sodium intake) and faecal loss(due to
      increase in transit time). Of course after leaving the program weight loss continues at about 1/2 to 2 pounds per week depending on exercise, where the patient started and how well they follow recommendations. The best introduction to the concept of
      calorie density is the DVD by Jeff Novick, Calorie Density: Eat More,
      Weigh less and Live Longer. Doug Lisle does an excellent job exploring the psychology and biology of losing weight in his two You Tube video’s, “How to Lose Weight without losing your Mind” and “The Pleasure Trap”(he coauthored a book by the same title)… both also available as DVD’s. The complexity of the nutritional science can be appreciated by viewing the 56 videos relating to obesity on Dr. Greger’s website. I would explain a weight gain of 50 grams with only the consumption of 10 grams of sugar as being related to some other factor and not violation of the laws of thermodynamics. Happy New Year.

  • http://www.facebook.com/arielgailmaclean Ariel Gail MacLean

    but what about fried nuts found most everywhere?

  • http://twitter.com/hkeye7 Jesper Ternstedt

    Fantastic source of knowledge. Thank you so much!

  • Good Luck Duck

    I am still confused about nuts and omega acid profiles. I read that almonds are preferable to peanuts, but their profiles seem similar.

  • Pingback: Using the Motivational Triad to Eat Healthier, Part 4: Energy Efficiency | Leading Effectively: Official Blog of the Center for Creative Leadership

  • bob kerr

    How do i reconcile Esselstyn’s recommendations for no nuts or avocado for people with heart disease with the info on nut consumption.

  • Jorge Calvo

    I love eating raw non gmo cashew butter. But seriusly, I don’t understand paleo guys saying ohhh nooo, it’ll cause leptin resistance. Must be those lectins messing with our hormones. What a joke. Arnold Schwarzenegger even ate cashew butter to gain muscle mass. Cashews have a high dense protein amino content. (protein keeps you sated longer right?) Same goes for pistachios and walnuts(added benefit of higher omega 3 ratio)

    plz tell me if Im doing something wrong in my diet. Im a college student who relies on my tasty unsweetened natural nut butters. Their easy on the pockets too along with sprouted breads I use

    Nb : I’m getting a lot of misinformation about nuts, legumes, beans and sprouts causing leptin resistance. Especially the the talk of lectins bears in mind. And for the record I have a shitty metabolism and am super skinny now thanks to good protein dense carbs, nuts, legumes and cooking with virgin cocnut oil