Study shows health benefits of hazelnuts for older adults
A recent study suggests people can significantly improve aspects of their health by adding a simple, local product to their diets: hazelnuts.
The study, conducted by Oregon State University, suggests people between the ages of 32 and 55 who participated showed significant improvements in levels of two key micronutrients: increased blood concentrations of magnesium and elevated urinary levels of a breakdown product of alpha tocopherol, commonly known as Vitamin E.
Participants in the study ate about 57 grams (two ounces) of hazelnuts a day for 16 weeks.
The Newberg area produces most of the state's hazelnuts and Oregon as a whole produces virtually all of the hazelnuts bought in the United States. According to numbers provided by the Oregin Industry Hazelnut Office, last year's crop number of hazelnuts was more than 31,000 tons. This year's yield, predicted by a USDA survey, was expected to be around 52,000 tons, but will likely end up around 47,000 tons.
There are about 800 Oregon families farming hazelnuts, according to the Oregon Industry Hazelnut Office, and the industry has averaged nearly $97 million during the past five years. The OIHA reports over the past 10 years the amount of acreage dedicated to hazelnuts has grown from 33,000 acres to more than 73,000 acres. However, only about 40,000 acres are in production currently.
The Oregon State University study was published in the Journal of Nutrition and concludes that Vitamin E is frequently consumed at less than the estimated average requirement, and "hazelnuts should be considered as part of a healthy dietary pattern."
"This is one of the first times a study of this type has focused only on older adults," study co-author Alex Michels, a researcher at OSU's Linus Pauling Institute, said in a press release. "We wanted to fill in a piece of the puzzle: Can hazelnuts improve the nutritional status of older adults specifically?"
Michels added that few studies have involved Oregon hazelnuts and said the "booming crop that we have in this state finally has science behind it. Perhaps other benefits of Oregon hazelnuts are awaiting future study."
The release states many Americans do not eat adequate amounts of either nutrient found in hazelnuts, and that older adults are at a particular risk as lower amounts of these micronutrients increased age-related problems such as Alzheimer's disease.
Additionally, the study showed hazelnuts contributed toward decreases in glucose and bad cholesterol.
"All of which says that hazelnuts are good for you," said Maret Traber, the study's corresponding author and professor at the OSU College of Public Health and Human Sciences. "The findings demonstrate the power of adding hazelnuts to your diet, of just changing one thing. Vitamin E and magnesium are two of the most underconsumed micronutrients in the U.S. population, and there's much more to hazelnuts than what we analyzed here. They're also a great source of healthy fats, copper and (Vitamin) B6. People don't like taking multivitamins, but hazelnuts represent a multivitamin in a natural form."
The Oregon State University Foundation and the Hazelnut Marketing Board of Oregon funded the research. Traber and Michels were joined by fellow Linus Pauling Institute members Scott Leonard, Sandra Uesugi, Gerd Bobe and Balz Frei.