Eating regular variety of nuts associated with lower risk of heart disease

November 13, 2017, American College of Cardiology
Credit: CC0 Public Domain

People who regularly eat nuts, including peanuts, walnuts and tree 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 today in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology. The study is the largest to date looking at frequency of nut consumption in relation to incident cardiovascular disease.

Recently, dietary recommendations have shifted toward diets including higher quantities of plant-based foods over animal-based foods, with most dietary patterns including nuts because of their association with reduced and unique nutritional composition.

While many past studies focused on nut consumption as a whole, researchers in this study also looked at the association between specific types of nuts—peanut butter, peanuts, walnuts and —with major cardiovascular events. Peanuts were included even though they are actually a legume because they have a similar fatty acid and nutrient profile as other nuts.

The study looked at over 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. In all three groups, information about medical history, lifestyle and health conditions were collected via self-administered questionnaires every two years.

The primary endpoint of the study was major cardiovascular disease, defined as a combined endpoint of myocardial infarction, stroke or fatal cardiovascular disease. Secondary endpoints were total coronary heart disease, defined as fatal or non-fatal myocardial infarction, and total stroke, which included all fatal and non-fatal strokes. Researchers documented 14,136 cardiovascular disease cases, including 8,390 coronary heart disease cases and 5,910 stroke cases.

The study found a consistent inverse association between total nut consumption and total cardiovascular disease and coronary heart disease. Also, after looking at individual nut consumption, eating walnuts one or more times per week was associated with a 19 percent lower risk of cardiovascular disease and 21 percent lower risk of coronary heart disease. Participants who ate peanuts or tree nuts two or more times per week had a 13 percent and 15 percent lower risk of cardiovascular disease, respectively, and a 15 percent and 23 percent, lower risk of coronary heart disease, respectively, compared to those who never consumed nuts.

Participants who consumed five or more servings of nuts a week had a 14 percent lower risk of and a 20 percent lower risk of than participants who never or almost never consumed nuts. The results were similar when accounting for consumption of tree nuts, peanuts and walnuts individually. Researchers found no evidence of an association between total nut consumption and risk of stroke, but eating peanuts and walnuts was inversely associated with the risk of stroke. Peanut butter and tree nuts were not associated with stroke risk.

"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, PhD, lead author of the study and research fellow at the department of nutrition at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

Several limitations were noted in the study, including that the sample size was limited to white health professionals. However, the researchers note that the results can be generalized to men and women of different ethnicities because there is no reason to expect the underlying mechanisms to be different. Also, because the nut intake was self-reported, errors are inevitable, and there was not data on how the nuts were prepared, so the influence of preparation methods was not able to be tested.

In an accompanying editorial comment, Emilio Ros, MD, PHD, of the Endocrinology and Nutrition service at the Hospital Clínic in Barcelona and investigator of CIBEROBN, a research network of Instituto de Salud Carlos III, Spain, confirmed that the consistency of the findings strongly suggests an association between nut consumption and heart protection, but there is more to research.

"Ideally, further investigations should test the effects of long-term consumption of nuts supplemented into the usual diet on hard cardiometabolic events," Ros said. "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."

Explore further: A handful of nuts a day cuts the risk of a wide range of diseases

More information: Journal of the American College of Cardiology (2017). DOI: 10.1016/j.jacc.2017.09.035

Related Stories

A handful of nuts a day cuts the risk of a wide range of diseases

December 5, 2016
A large analysis of current research shows that people who eat at least 20g of nuts a day have a lower risk of heart disease, cancer and other diseases.

Study finds tree nut consumption may lower risk of cardiovascular disease

November 19, 2015
A new study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that consuming tree nuts, such as walnuts, may lower the risk of cardiovascular disease.1 After conducting a systematic review and meta-analysis of ...

Nuts and peanuts may protect against major causes of death

June 11, 2015
A paper published today in the International Journal of Epidemiology confirms a link between peanut and nut intake and lower mortality rates, but finds no protective effect for peanut butter. Men and women who eat at least ...

Certain nuts may help ward off return of colon cancer: study

May 18, 2017
Eating certain kinds of tree nuts, such as almonds, pecans, walnuts, hazelnuts and cashews, has been linked to a dramatically lower risk of colon cancer recurrence, researchers said Wednesday.

People who eat nuts have reduced risk of cancer or cardiovascular disease

July 17, 2013
(Medical Xpress)—People who eat nuts, particularly walnuts, are more likely to live longer, finds research in BioMed Central's open access journal BMC Medicine. In a longitudinal study, researchers suggest that those who ...

Study results may help people with type 2 diabetes

June 24, 2014
Findings from a new study (i) published in Nutrition, Metabolism & Cardiovascular Diseases show that the fatty acids in nuts have the potential to help reduce the risk of coronary heart disease (CHD) in people with type 2 ...

Recommended for you

Eating yogurt may reduce cardiovascular disease risk

February 15, 2018
A new study in the American Journal of Hypertension, published by Oxford University Press, suggests that higher yogurt intake is associated with lower cardiovascular disease risk among hypertensive men and women.

Newly discovered gene may protect against heart disease

February 14, 2018
Scientists have identified a gene that may play a protective role in preventing heart disease. Their research revealed that the gene, called MeXis, acts within key cells inside clogged arteries to help remove excess cholesterol ...

Blood thinners may raise stroke risk in over-65s with kidney disease

February 14, 2018
People over 65 years old may be increasing their stroke risk by taking anticoagulants for an irregular heartbeat if they also have chronic kidney disease, finds a new study led by UCL, St George's, University of London and ...

Cardiac macrophages found to contribute to a currently untreatable type of heart failure

February 14, 2018
A team of Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) investigators has discovered, for the first time, that the immune cells called macrophages contribute to a type of heart failure for which there currently is no effective treatment. ...

Study maps molecular mechanisms crucial for new approach to heart disease therapy

February 13, 2018
Creating new healthy heart muscle cells within a patient's own ailing heart. This is how scientists hope to reverse heart disease one day. Today, a new study led by UNC-Chapel Hill researchers reveals key molecular details ...

Quality toolkit improves care in Indian hospitals

February 13, 2018
A simple toolkit of checklists, education materials and quality and performance reporting improved the quality of care but not outcomes in hospitals in the south Indian state of Kerala and may have the potential to improve ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.