Eating walnuts just two or three times a week can reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes by almost a quarter, according to new research.
A study of nearly 140,000 women in the US showed that regular helpings of a small portion of nuts can have a powerful protective effect against a disease that is threatening to become a global epidemic.
Women who consumed a 28g packet of walnuts at least twice a week were 24 per cent less likely to develop type 2 diabetes than those who rarely or never ate them.
The latest findings, published in the Journal of Nutrition, are not the first to highlight the anti-diabetic effects of walnuts, with earlier research showing similar benefits.
However, this is thought to be one of the largest studies to find regularly snacking on them can help prevent the condition.
Although the latest research was carried out on female nurses, it's likely that the same benefits apply to men.
According to the charity Diabetes UK, at the current rate of increase, the numbers affected by type 2 diabetes in the UK will rise from around 2.5 million currently to four million by 2025 and five million by 2030.
Left untreated, it can raise the risk of heart attacks, blindness and amputation.
Being overweight, physically inactive and having a poor diet are major risk factors for the disease.
Scientists at the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston tracked 137,893 nurses aged from 35 to 77 over a ten year period to see how many developed type 2 diabetes.
Their dietary habits were closely monitored, including details on how often they ate nuts, particularly walnuts.
After allowing for body fat and weight, the researchers found eating walnuts one to three times a month curbed the risk by four per cent, once a week by 13 per cent and at least twice a week by 24 per cent.
In a report on the findings the researchers said: "These results suggest higher walnut consumption is associated with a significantly lower risk of type 2 diabetes in women."
Walnuts are rich in healthy fatty acids which have been shown to reduce inflammation in the body and protect against heart disease, cancer and arthritis.
Last year, experts at the University of California Los Angeles also found young men in their 20s and 30s who ate walnuts every day increased their sperm count and boosted their fertility.
The research comes just after a Louisiana State University study which showed that eating nuts can reduce people's risk of obesity.
The study found that those who consumed varieties such as almonds, cashews and pistachios demonstrated a lower body weight, body mass index (BMI) and waist circumference compared to non-consumers.
They were also at lower risk of developing heart disease, type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome
- DAILY MAIL