A newly developed machine learning algorithm has uncovered information about how eating walnuts can lead to significantly lower risk of chronic diseases.

The algorithm was able to analyze data from 1,833 participants of a multi-year nutrition study and identify 19 biomarkers associated with walnut consumption, according to research led by Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. The researchers were then able to determine that people who had metabolic profiles containing these biomarkers had a 17 percent lower risk of type 2 diabetes and a 29 percent lower risk of cardiovascular disease.

It has long been known that consuming walnuts is associated with better health outcomes, but why that’s the case is largely a mystery. Lead author Marta Guasch-Ferré, a research scientist in the Department of Nutrition, said in a Feb. 4, 2020 Health IT Analytics article that the findings bring researchers “one step closer to understanding ‘how’ walnuts are good for our health” and that discoveries from machine learning will significantly influence the future of nutrition recommendations.

“With data-driven technologies, we are able to enhance our understanding of the relationship between diet and disease and take a personalized approach to nutrition which will lead to better prevention and management of various health conditions,” she said.

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