Nuts May Help Prevent Diabetes

Eating lots of nuts or peanut butter may help ward off diabetes, a study of more than 83,000 nurses suggests.

Women who reported eating the equivalent of a handful of nuts or one tablespoon of peanut butter at least five times a week were more than 20 percent less likely to develop adult-onset, or type 2, diabetes than those who rarely or never ate those products.

Researchers from Harvard University's School of Public Health analyzed data on 83,818 women ages 34 to 59 who were followed for as many as 16 years. The researchers said the findings, which appear in today's issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association, would probably apply to men as well.

Research in the past decade has shown that nuts generally contain good kinds of fat as well as other nutrients that can help keep cholesterol at healthy levels. Nuts also contain fiber and magnesium, which help balance insulin and glucose levels. Insulin helps the body convert sugar into energy. Diabetes is the result of the body's inability to produce or properly use insulin.

Women who ate lots of nuts led slightly healthier lifestyles than other women, which could have reduced their risk of developing diabetes. But the results held up even when the researchers compared nut consumption in subgroups of women, such as smokers.

The researchers did not determine what kinds of nuts women were eating. Most nuts contain unsaturated fats, which can help lower cholesterol levels, and relatively small amounts of saturated fats, which can raise levels of the bad kind of cholesterol.

FDA Approves Osteoporosis Drug

The first drug designed to stimulate the growth of new bone won Food and Drug Administration approval yesterday for treatment of osteoporosis, the brittle-bone disease that affects 10 million Americans.

The new drug, known as teriparatide, works by increasing the action of osteoblasts, the body's bone-building cells. This causes bones to become denser and more resistant to fractures, officials said.

FDA officials said the drug, given by injection daily, will carry a special warning because in laboratory tests teriparatide caused cancerous bone tumors in rats. The tumors, however, have not been seen in 2,000 people who tested the drug in clinical trials, officials said.

Teriparatide will be marketed by Eli Lilly and Co. of Indianapolis under the brand name Forteo.

As people age, their risk for osteoporosis increases. Over a person's lifetime, bone is built up and broken down by special cells. The osteoblast cell forms new bone, while the osteoclast dissolves old and worn-out bone tissue. When this is in balance, bones stay strong and dense.

But in many women after menopause and in some men, age brings an imbalance of action by the two types of cells. Osteoclasts tend to become more active, dissolving old bone faster than osteoblasts can build new bone. The result is that bones become thin and brittle, leading to fractures, particularly of the spine.

Since 1995, drugs such as Fosamax have attacked this problem by slowing the action of osteoclasts, thus helping bones retain their density.

The new drug takes a different approach by stimulating the osteoblasts and restoring the ability of the body to build new bone.

The FDA said that in teriparatide clinical trials some patients did develop mild side effects, including nausea, dizziness and leg cramps.

-- From News Services