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Nuts and Your Health

By Greg Arnold, DC, CSCS, May 19, 2009

The past 40 years have seen the U.S. production of nuts increase by more than 650%, growing from 306.4 million pounds in 1970 to 2.0 billion pounds in the late 2000’s. This has been matched by increased consumption of nuts by Americans, from 1.7 pounds per American per year in 1970 to more than 3.0 pounds in 2008. Almost 90% of U.S. tree nut production is harvested from California each year, including virtually all almonds, pistachios, and walnuts with only Georgia, New Mexico, and Texas producing pecans (1).

All of this consumption of nuts by Americans will hopefully yield “healthy” returns, as nuts have been found to be a valuable asset to a healthy diet. In 2003, the FDA applied a health claim to nuts and heart disease:

"Scientific evidence suggests but does not prove that eating 1.5 ounces per day of most nuts as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol may reduce the risk of heart disease." (2)

This health claim applies to seven kinds of nuts: almonds, hazelnuts, peanuts, pecans, some pine nuts, pistachios and walnuts, since these nuts contain less than 4g of saturated fats per 50g. In the U.S. Physicians Study, men consuming nuts two or more times per week had a 47% reduced risk of dying from a heart attack than those eating nuts less than once per week (3). In the Nurse’s Health Study, women eating more than five ounces of nuts per week had a 35% reduced risk of heart disease compared to those who never ate nuts or who ate less than one ounce per month (4). Finally, the Adventist Health Study showed that those who ate nuts more than four times per week had 51% few heart attacks than those eating nuts less than once per week (5).

The cost implications of increasing nut consumption can be significant, since heart attacks cost our healthcare system $151.6 billion each year (6) and contribute to cardiovascular disease’s cost burden of $448.5 billion each year (7). When purchasing nuts, always be sure to purchase nuts from companies that do micro-testing for salmonella and E. Coli to avoid any food poisoning.

Greg Arnold is a Chiropractic Physician practicing in Danville, CA. You can contact Dr. Arnold directly by emailing him at mailto:PitchingDoc@msn.com or visiting his web site at www.CompleteChiropracticHealthcare.com

1. “Fruit and Tree Nuts: Background” posted on www.ers.usda.gov/
2. “Qualified Health Claims: Letter of Enforcement Discretion - Nuts and Coronary Heart Disease” posted on http://www.cfsan.fda.gov/~dms/qhcnuts2.html
3. Albert CM Nut consumption and decreased risk of sudden cardiac death in the Physicians' Health Study. Arch Intern Med. 2002 Jun 24;162(12):1382-7.
4. Hu FB. Frequent nut consumption and risk of coronary heart disease in women: prospective cohort study. BMJ 1998;317:1341-1345 ( 14 November )
5. “Study of Adventists Show Eating Nuts Halves Risk of Fatal Heart Attack” posted on http://news.adventist.org/1998/09/stuy-of-avetists-show-eatig-uts-halves-risk-of-fatal-heart-attack.html
6. American Heart Association Update. Heart Disease and Stroke Statistics—2007 Update. Circulation. 2007;115:e69-e171
7. “Cardiovascular Disease Cost” posted on www.americanheart.org/presenter.jhtml?identifier=4475