In a Nutshell, Eat Nuts for Health

According to the American Heart Association (AHA), cardiovascular disease (CVD) is the leading cause of death globally. Approximately 17.3 million deaths annually are attributed to a cardiovascular incident and the AHA projects that these numbers will increase each year in the coming decades. Lifestyle factors such as diet and exercise play a large role in maintaining heart health, but genetics can also influence risk factors such as blood pressure and cholesterol levels.

In the largest study of its kind, scientists from Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and the Harvard School of Public Health found that people who ate a handful of nuts daily were 20 percent less likely to die from any cause over a 30-year period than those who didn’t consume nuts. Their report, which was published in the New England Journal of Medicine, also found that those who ate nuts regularly were more slender than those who didn’t.

“The most obvious benefit was a reduction of 29 percent in deaths from heart disease,” says Charles S. Fuchs, MD, MPH, director of the Gastrointestinal Cancer Center at Dana-Farber, senior author of the report. The reduction in mortality was similar both for peanuts and tree nuts, such as walnuts, hazelnuts, almonds, Brazil nuts, cashews, macadamias, pecans, pistachios and pine nuts.

Higher nut consumption also has been linked to reductions in cholesterol levels, oxidative stress, inflammation, obesity and insulin resistance. The Nurses’ Health Study provided data on 76,464 women between 1980 and 2010, while the Health Professionals’ Follow-up Study yielded data on 42,498 men from 1986 to 2010. Participants filled out food questionnaires every two to four years and were asked to estimate how often they consumed one ounce servings of nuts.

Dr. Ying Bao, MD, ScD of Brigham and Women’s hospital and first author of the report explains that “in all these analyses, the more nuts people ate, the less likely they were to die over the 30 -year follow-up period. “Those who ate nuts less than once a week had a seven percent reduction in mortality; once a week, 11 percent reduction; two to four times a week, 13 percent reduction; five to six times per week, 15 percent reduction, and seven or more times a week, a 20 percent reduction in death rate.”

Based on these and other smaller reports, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has concluded that eating 1.5 ounces per day of most nuts “may reduce the risk of heart disease.” So if you like nuts and have avoided them because they’re high in calories and fat, you can rest assured that a handful of nuts every day is good for you. They’re delicious, help give you energy and are perfect for an Active Wellness regimen.