We have known for a while that nuts are a natural source of good fats, vitamins, and healthy minerals. Doctors and nutrition experts have recommended them as part of a balanced diet for some time, and they are an essential part of the Mediterranean diet, which seems to have a lot of heart-healthy benefits.
But a new study, is the most comprehensive to date to look specifically at the connection between nuts and heart prevention. The researchers analyzed data from 3 extensive population health studies, including more than 200,000 healthy adults, who were followed for up to 30 years to look at the incidence of heart disease and stroke.
What Did Researchers Find?
1. Participants who consumed at least five servings of nuts weekly had about a 14% lower risk of heart disease than those who never ate nuts.
2. The link was similar for those who ate peanuts, tree nuts, or walnuts.
3. Surprisingly, there was a preventive benefit for heart disease but less so for stroke (except for peanuts and walnuts, which did have a slight positive effect).
4. Other nut products, such as peanut butter, did not seem to have a protective effect.
Like a lot of population studies, this one was retrospective, so it did not prove that there is a direct link between nut intake and reduced disease. And the groups studied were not ethnically diverse. But it was carefully performed and in a substantial population, so it is the best evidence so far showing that nuts are part of a healthy prevention diet.
Put Knowledge into Practice
1. 1-5 servings of nuts weekly can be an essential component of a preventive diet, especially for those who have, or are at risk for, heart and vascular disease.
2. All types of nuts seem to be beneficial, even peanuts which are technically a legume.
3. Because nuts have a lot of calories, portion size is essential. A serving of nuts is 1 ounce, which is about 28 peanuts, or 23 almonds.
4. Processed nut products such as peanut butter do not seem to have the same beneficial effect.
Bottom line: find ways to incorporate whole nuts into your diet, but be mindful of portion sizes!
This article was originally published on The Heart Health Doctors, a blog written by OhioHealth cardiologists, Kanny Grewal, MD, and Anne Albers, MD.
Dr. Kanny Grewal has been with OhioHealth Heart & Vascular Physicians since 1997 and is currently the system chief of cardiac imaging for OhioHealth. He practices at OhioHealth Riverside Methodist Hospital, specializing in cardiac imaging, including echocardiography, nuclear imaging and cardiac CT imaging. His clinical interest includes heart disease prevention and heart valve disease, but he enjoys providing consultations on all aspects of cardiology. He is cofounder of an online blog on heart prevention, www.hearthealthdocs.com. He is currently on the board of directors of the Columbus Medical Association. Dr. Grewal is an avid runner and also enjoys cycling and golf.