They Don’t Just Taste Great!


Those delicious snacks of nuts are rich in fiber, low in saturated fats and have high levels of antioxidants.  They are probably the most nutritious snacks out there, according to new research, and the benefits are more wide-ranging than we think.  Nuts also contain vitamins and minerals in addition to their various antioxidants and have definitely earned their spot in the “superfood” category.

It has also been shown through research that nut consumption will reduce the risk of coronary heart disease, stroke and cancer, as well as the health benefits might extend well beyond these major diseases.  The Imperial College London in the United Kingdom and the Norwegian University of Science and Technology in Norway researchers analyzed a range of existing studies and tracked down the associations between nuts intake and the risk of various illnesses.  These findings have been published in the journal BMC Medicine, which consisted of a meta-analysis of 29 existing studies from around the world, including Europe, Australia and Asia.

The medical research databases PubMed and Embase were used to search for prospective studies of cardiovascular disease (CVD), total cancer cases, all-cause mortality rates and cause-specific mortality rates in 2016.  About 819,448 participants that included over 12,300 cases of coronary heart disease, more than 18,600 cases of CVD and 18,400 cases of cancer, were included in the analysis. The link between nut consumption and mortality was studied from a variety of causes, such as respiratory disease, diabetes, neurodegenerative disease, infectious disease and kidney disease.  All kinds of tree nuts were included in the research such as hazelnuts, walnuts, cashews, macadamia nuts and pine nuts, which are actually legumes.

Just that little handful of nuts a day is enough to cut the risk of various diseases and is associated with an overall 22% decrease in the risk of all-cause mortality.  In fact, as little as 20 grams a day (a handful) can reduce the risk of coronary heart disease by almost 30%, CVD by 21% and of all cancers by 15%. The risk of respiratory disease was also shown to decrease by 52%.  Eating nuts will also decrease the risk of diabetes by almost 40% and the risk of infectious diseases by 75%. Tree nuts and peanuts both seemed to reduce the risk of coronary heart disease, CVD and mortality, but only peanuts reduced the risk of stroke.  A decreased risk of cancer was linked only to tree nuts.

Under the assumption that the observed associations are causal, they estimate that approximately 4.4 million premature deaths in the regions covered, including North and South America, Europe, Southeast Asia, and Western Pacific, may be attributable to a nut intake below 20 grams per day.  

They found a consistent reduction in risk across many of the different diseases, which is a strong indication of underlying relationships between nut consumption and different health outcomes.  Nuts and peanuts are high in fiber, magnesium and polyunsaturated fats are nutrients and are beneficial for cardiovascular disease risks, and can reduce cholesterol levels. Mixed nuts were shown to improve insulin resistance and decrease inflammation in patients with metabolic syndrome.  Nuts can also help fight oxidative stress, possibly reduce cancer risk, and there is some evidence that suggests nuts might actually reduce your risk of obesity over time. Sounds like a winning snack to me!

Dr Fredda Branyon