A daily handful of Brazil, cashew or pistachio kernels reduces the risk of heart attack or stroke in diabetics by a third.
Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is the leading cause of illness and mortality in people with a high metabolic disorder.
One study found that patients who consumed one ounce of snack five days a week were 34% and 17% less likely to die from the disease.
This would be about seven walnuts or 24 almonds – compared to those who ate less than one serving a month.
Each additional serving of nuts a week was associated with a 6% or 3% lower risk of death from CVD or the development of the disease
Tree nuts – including pine nuts, pecans, macadamias and hazelnuts – were the most protective.
Regular consumption of nuts also reduced the risk of coronary artery disease, such as hardening of the arteries, by 20 percent – and dying of any cause by 31 percent.
Lead author Dr. Gang Liu, nutritionist at Harvard T.H. The Chan School of Public Health of Boston, Massachusetts said, "Our findings provide new insights that support the recommendation to include nuts in healthy eating habits to prevent cardiovascular complications and premature deaths in people with diabetes."
Even if people ate nuts before diabetes diagnosis, adding more diet proved beneficial, probably at any age or stage.
Compared to people who did not change their eating habits, they were 25% and 27% less likely to die from CVD or to die prematurely.
They also reduced their risk of developing cardiovascular disease or coronary heart disease by 11 and 15 percent, respectively.
Each additional serving of nuts a week was associated with a six or three percent lower risk of death from CVD or the development of the disease.
Dr. Liu said, "It never seems too late to improve the diet and lifestyle after diagnosis in patients with type 2 diabetes."
The improvements were also retained after taking into account other factors such as gender, smoking habits and BMI (body mass index).
Type 2 diabetes is associated with an increased risk of high cholesterol, heart disease and stroke and is a common public health problem affecting more than 30 million Americans.
Nuts are packed with nutrients such as unsaturated fatty acids, phytochemicals, fiber, vitamins like vitamin E and folic acid as well as minerals like calcium, potassium and magnesium.
They are designed to help ward off a range of diseases in healthy people, including heart disease, cancer and diabetes.
However, little is known about the benefits. If anything, they may offer people who already have type 2 diabetes and are at greater risk for heart health complications.
So Dr. used. Liu and her colleagues self-questionned nutritional questionnaires from 16,217 men and women before and after their diagnosis, asking them specifically about their consumption of peanuts and nuts over a period of several years.
During the follow-up, there were 3,356 cases of CVD – 2,567 of coronary heart disease and 789 strokes – and 5,682 deaths, including 1,663 by CVD and 1,297 by cancer.
All kinds of nuts strengthened the heart, with tree nuts showing the best results.
Peanuts are actually legumes because they grow underground as opposed to tree nuts. But even small amounts of nuts had a good effect.
The researchers say nuts appear to increase blood glucose control, blood pressure, lipid metabolism, inflammation and blood vessel function.
In addition, tree nuts could offer more benefits because they contain more nutrients than peanuts, they explained.
Dr. Prakash Deedwania of the University of California, San Francisco, School of Medicine, Fresno, Know Diabetes Adviser, by Heart, said: "Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death and major cause of heart attack, stroke and disability for people with type 2 diabetes.
"Efforts to understand the connection between the two conditions are important to prevent cardiovascular complications of type 2 diabetes and to help people make informed decisions about their health."
He said the results are very encouraging, as the simple daily eating habits of eating tree nuts like almonds, walnuts and pistachios may have such a profound effect on coronary events, cardiac death and overall mortality.
Dr. Deedwania added, "They reinforce the growing evidence that certain lifestyle changes, regular exercise and a judicious diet can have a significant positive impact on the risk of cardiovascular disease and the risk of cardiac events in patients with diabetes."