Nut consumption improves health and reduces the risk of heart disease

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A new study suggests that people who eat nuts tend to have a lower risk of heart disease and healthier eating habits. Westend61/Getty Images
  • Nuts, including walnuts, are generally considered part of a healthy diet due to their high levels of protein, fiber, and healthy fats.
  • Researchers at the University of Minnesota have found that people who eat tree nuts have a better heart disease risk profile than those who don’t.
  • The research team also reported that nut eaters had overall healthier diets, gained less weight, and engaged in more physical activity than non-nut eaters.

Nuts are generally considered part of a Balanced diet due to their high levels of protein, fiber and healthy fats.

New research from the University of Minnesota sheds light on one nut in particular – walnuts.

The results suggest that those who include this particular nut in their diet experience certain health benefits, including less weight gaina than superioradietand a better heart disease risk profile.

This study, partially funded by the California Walnut Commission, was recently published in the journal Nutrition, Metabolism and Cardiovascular Diseases.

Although nuts are generally considered nuts, they are technically the seed of a fruit.

Walnut trees produce the stone fruit, also called a drupe. As the fruit ripens, the exterior turns into a hard shell, housing the edible seed – the nut – inside.

A daily serving of nuts equals 1 ounce, 1/4 cup, or 12 to 14 nut halves, and has a nutritional breakdown of:

  • 190 calories
  • 18 grams of fat (including 13 grams of polyunsaturated fat)
  • 4 grams of carbohydrates
  • 4 grams of protein
  • 2 grams of dietary fiber
  • 1 gram of sugar
  • Sodium and cholesterol free

According to Lauren Pelehach Sepe, clinical nutritionist at the Kellman Wellness Center in New York, NY, walnuts are some of the healthiest nuts you can eat.

“They are high in healthy fats, antioxidants, as well as several essential minerals,” she explained to Medical News Today. “Given their beneficial nutritional profile, nuts are an important part of a healthy diet, as they provide a number of crucial health benefits.”

Sepe said walnuts offer more health benefits than other nuts because they contain the highest amount of omega-3 fatty acids — also called n-3 fatty acids — of all nuts.

“Omega-3 fatty acids are naturally anti-inflammatory. They have also been shown to lower triglyceride levels and reduce plaque formationwhich is one mechanism by which they reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease.

– Lauren Pelehach Sepe, clinical nutritionist

Sepe also cited a 2019 study showing that walnuts help provide cardiovascular benefits due to their impact on the gut microbiota.

“A healthy gut microbiome has been linked to reduced levels of inflammation, which lowers your risk of cardiovascular disease and improves your lipid profile, decreases your risk of metabolic diseasealong with many other health benefits,” she added.

For the current study, lead author Lyn Steffen, PhD, MPH, professor of epidemiology and community health at the University of Minnesota School of Public Health, said the primary goal was to determine whether nut eaters had a better diet and a better cardiovascular risk factor. profile over 30 years of follow-up, compared to those who did not eat nuts.

For this observational study, Dr. Steffen and his team used results from the Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults (CARDIA) study, which began in 1985-1986 with a group of more than 5,000 racialized men and women. white and black aged 18 to 30. old, and is current today.

The research team looked at data from 3,023 CARDIA participants, including 352 nut eaters, 2,494 other nut eaters, and 177 nut non-eaters.

After examining physical and clinical measures after 30 years, researchers found that nut eaters had a better heart disease risk profile, including:

The researchers also determined that people who ate nuts had a healthier overall diet, gained less weight, were tested with a fasting blood glucose concentration and more self-reported physical activity.

Dr Steffen said the results were not surprising because walnuts are an excellent source of plant-based n-3 fatty acids, more specifically alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) and other antioxidants.

“Other nuts are also nutritious and contain fatty acids and antioxidants, but other types of nuts do not contain ALA, plant-based n-3 fatty acids,” she explained to DTM.

“I have read about the health benefits of nuts for many years – I wanted to see if eating nuts would be beneficially linked to cardiovascular disease [cardiovascular disease] health profiles in the CARDIA population.

“I wrote another paper on nut consumption associated with cardiac phenotypes – these are systolic and diastolic function – using data from the CARDIA study. Even though heart function parameters of adults were within normal limits, adults who consumed walnuts had better values.

– Lyn Steffen, PhD, MPH, lead study author

According to Sepe, there is no exact answer for how many nuts a person should eat per day to experience the health benefits described in the study.

Still, she suggested that 1 ounce a day, or about seven walnuts or 14 walnut halves, may provide benefits.

“They’re easy to add to your daily diet, or you can have a larger serving several times a week,” she explained. “The goal isn’t so much a specific number, but to start including these and other nutrient-dense foods in your daily diet to confer maximum benefits.”

As for the next steps in this research, Sepe said she would like to see more research looking at all of the mechanisms by which nuts provide health benefits, namely their impact on the gut.

“This could lead not only to a better understanding of how nuts can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, but also other health problems,” she added.

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