Eating nuts reduces risk of fatal heart disease and stroke, research suggests

Two portions of raw, fresh nuts a week leads to a healthier heart, scientists say

Harry Cockburn
Saturday 31 August 2019 10:33
British Heart Foundation animation shows you how risk factors like high cholesterol and smoking can lead to a heart attack or a stroke

Regularly eating unsalted nuts such as walnuts, almonds and pistachios considerably lowers the risk of death from heart attacks and strokes, research has revealed.

Those who ate nuts at least twice a week were 17 per cent less likely to die from cardiovascular disease, scientists found.

“Nuts are a good source of unsaturated fat and contain little saturated fat,” said study author Dr Noushin Mohammadifard of Isfahan Cardiovascular Research Institute, Iran.

“They also have protein, minerals, vitamins, fibre, phytosterols, and polyphenols which benefit heart health.”

He said: “European and US studies have related nuts with cardiovascular protection but there is limited evidence from the Eastern Mediterranean Region.”

The study, presented on Friday at a summit of the world’s leading cardiologists, examined the association between nuts and the risk of cardiovascular disease and death in the Iranian population.

A total of 5,432 adults aged 35 and older with no history of cardiovascular disease were randomly selected from urban and rural areas of the Isfahan, Arak and Najafabad counties.

Intake of nuts including walnuts, almonds, pistachios, hazelnuts, and seeds was assessed in 2001 with a food frequency questionnaire.

Participants were interviewed every two years until 2013 to track cardiovascular problems.

Nuts such as almonds contain protein, minerals, vitamins, and polyphenols, which are good for the heart, researchers say

The outcomes investigated were coronary heart disease, stroke, total cardiovascular disease, death from any cause, and death from cardiovascular disease.

Among the participants, there were 751 cardiovascular events (594 coronary heart disease and 157 stroke), 179 cardiovascular deaths, and 458 all-cause deaths.

Eating nuts two or more times per week was associated with a 17 per cent lower risk of cardiovascular-related death compared to consuming nuts once every two weeks.

The connection was robust even after adjusting for factors such as age, sex, education, smoking, and physical activity.

Guidelines from the European Society of Cardiology (ESC) list 30g of unsalted nuts per day as one of the characteristics of a healthy diet, while noting that the energy density of nuts is high.

“Raw fresh nuts are the healthiest,” said Dr Mohammadifard.

“Nuts should be fresh because unsaturated fats can become oxidised in stale nuts, making them harmful.

“You can tell if nuts are rancid by their paint-like smell and bitter or sour taste.”

It appears the link between heart health and nuts may have already been detected by stock image photographers (Getty)

The research was presented at the ESC Congress 2019 with the World Congress of Cardiology.

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