Study links nuts to lower risk of heart disease

by Jeff Gelski
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Mixed nuts
People who regularly eat nuts have a lower risk of developing cardiovascular disease or coronary heart disease.
 

WASHNGTON — People who regularly eat nuts have a lower risk of developing cardiovascular disease or coronary heart disease compared to people who never or almost never eat nuts, according to a study published Nov. 13 in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

Marta Guasch-Ferre
Marta Guasch-Ferre, Ph.D., research fellow at the Department of Nutrition at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health

“Our findings support recommendations of increasing the intake of a variety of nuts, as part of healthy dietary patterns, to reduce the risk of chronic disease in the general populations,” said Marta Guasch-Ferre, Ph.D., lead author of the study and research fellow at the Department of Nutrition at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston.

Grants from the National Institutes of Health supported the study, which looked at more than 210,000 people, including women from the Nurses’ Health Study and Nurses’ Health Study II and men from the Health Professionals Follow-up Study, with up to 32 years of follow-up. Information was gathered through self-administered questionnaires every two years.

Researchers documented 14,136 cardiovascular disease cases, including 8,390 coronary heart disease cases and 5,910 stroke cases. People who ate five or more servings of nuts a week had a 14% lower risk of cardiovascular disease and a 20% lower risk of coronary heart disease than people who never or almost never ate nuts.

Eating walnuts
Eating walnuts one or more times a week was associated with a 19% lower risk of cardiovascular disease and a 21% lower risk of coronary heart disease.
 

The study also looked at the association between specific types of nuts, including peanut butter, peanuts, walnuts and tree nuts. While peanuts are legumes, researchers included them in the study because peanuts have a similar fatty acid and nutrient profile as nuts.

Eating walnuts one or more times a week was associated with a 19% lower risk of cardiovascular disease and a 21% lower risk of coronary heart disease. People who ate peanuts two or more times per week had a 13% lower risk of cardiovascular disease and a 15% lower risk of coronary heart disease. People who ate tree nuts two or more times per week had a 15% lower risk of cardiovascular disease and a 23% lower risk of coronary heart disease. Eating peanuts and walnuts was inversely associated with the risk of stroke, but eating peanut butter and tree nuts was not associated with the risk of stroke.

Emilio Ros
Emilio Ros, M.D., Ph.D., of the Endocrinology and Nutrition service at the Hospital Clinic in Barcelona
“Ideally, further investigations should test the effects of long-term consumption of nuts supplemented into the usual diet on hard cardiometabolic events,” said Emilio Ros, M.D., Ph.D., of the Endocrinology and Nutrition service at the Hospital Clinic in Barcelona, Spain, in editorial commentary that accompanied the study. “In the meantime, raw nuts, if possible unpeeled and otherwise unprocessed, may be considered as natural health capsules that can be easily incorporated into any heart-protective diet to further cardiovascular well-being and promote healthy aging.” 
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