If you’re eating a traditional Mediterranean diet for good health, add a daily serving of mixed nuts, especially if you have metabolic syndrome (which so many Americans do!) And should you worry about your child becoming allergic to nuts? Finally, there is a mysterious shortage of acorns along the East Coast this year. They aren’t on the ground, meaning they weren’t on the oak trees either. Are oaks being affected by pollution or global warming? For scientists, this is a mystery, but for squirrels, this could mean war!

Metabolic syndrome is a set of metabolic abnormalities that includes abdominal obesity and high cholesterol, high blood pressure and high blood glucose levels, all of which are risk factors for heart disease. A traditional Mediterranean diet?characterized by a high intake of cereals, vegetables, fruits and olive oil, a moderate intake of fish and alcohol and a low intake of dairy, meats and sweets?has been associated with a lower risk of this.

When researchers fed this diet to two groups of volunteers, and added NUTS to the diet of one group, the number of individuals with large waist circumference, high triglycerides or high blood pressure significantly decreased in the Mediterranean diet plus nuts group compared with the control group. If you can?t figure out how to add nuts to your life, you might slip a small package of them when you go to the movies this Christmas, to munch on instead of candy or popcorn.

But what about our kids? We all here so much about dangerous nut allergies, to the extent that a peanut that was found on the floor of a school bus recently caused the school to evacuate the 10-year-old passengers and decontaminate the bus. Schools are being declared “nut free zones,” with all foods that don’t have their ingredients clearly labeled?including lunches brought from home?being banned.

Medical expert Nicolas Christakis doesn’t think we should be so afraid of nuts. In the US, allergies from all foods?not just nuts?cause 2,000 hospitalizations and 2,000 deaths a year. Most people have only mild reactions to foods they are allergic to.

BBC News quotes Christakis as saying, “Well intentioned efforts to reduce exposure to nuts actually fans the flames, since they signal to parents that nuts are a clear and present danger?The risk has been blown out of all proportion.”

When it comes to acorns?something humans don’t eat, but squirrels DO?CNN quotes Long Island naturalist Alonso Abugattas as saying, “I can’t think of any other year like this.”A blog posted by a resident of New Jersey says, “Now we are finding dead squirrels! Should we all be concerned?” The explanation is that last year’s trees produced a record number of acorns, so this year, the trees are exhausted.

Art credit: freeimages.co.uk

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