Eating regular variety of nuts may help lower risk of heart disease

July 01, 2020
Nuts

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.

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 cardiovascular risk factors 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 tree nuts -- 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 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.

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 cardiovascular disease and a 20 percent lower risk of coronary heart disease 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.

Several limitations were noted in the study made by researchers at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, 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. (ScienceDaily)