Eating Nuts May Help You Live Longer
By Jessica Patella, ND abstracted on August 6, 2013 from “Frequency of nut consumption and mortality risk in the PREDIMED nutrition intervention trial” from the 11th volume of 2013 in the publication of BMC Medicine.
Nuts are a good source of unsaturated fats, fiber, potassium, calcium, magnesium, folate and vitamin E (1). Nuts are also a main component of the Mediterranean Diet (1). Consuming nuts and eating a Mediterranean diet are often recommended to patients with heart disease, which is the leading cause of death in the United States (2). Recent research has found this is good advice, because eating nuts more than three times per week decreased the risk of death (1).
The research included 7,216 participants (men 55-80 years (n=3,071), women 60-80 years (n=4,145); average age 67) who were randomly divided into one of three groups:
Group 1: A Mediterranean diet enriched with extra-virgin olive oil
Group 2: A Mediterranean diet enriched with mixed nuts
Group 3: A low fat diet (1).
Participants did not have heart disease at enrollment, but they were at risk because of type 2 diabetes or had at least 3 of the following risk factors: current smoker, high blood pressure, high total cholesterol, low HDL cholesterol (“good cholesterol”), overweight or obese, or family history of early heart disease (1).
At baseline, trained dietitians completed a 137-item food frequency questionnaire with each participant. One serving of nuts was considered to be 28 grams of peanuts, almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts, pine nuts, pistachios, Brazil nuts, macadamias or cashews (1). Three categories of the frequency of nut consumption were used for the study: never or almost never, 1-3 servings per week, and more than 3 servings per week (1).
After 4.8 years, participants on the Mediterranean diet enriched with mixed nuts increased their total nut consumption by 15.96 +/- 21.10 grams per day on average. Participants on the Mediterranean diet enriched with extra-virgin olive oil decreased their total nut consumption by 0.80 +/- 16.31 grams per day on average. And participants on the low-fat diet decreased their total nut consumption by 3.12 +/- 13.85 grams per day on average (1).
Overall, after 4.8 years there were a total of 323 total deaths, 81 deaths due to cardiovascular disease and 130 deaths due to all types of cancer (1). Participants who ate mixed nuts, walnuts or non-walnuts more than 3 times per week reduced their risk of death significantly by 39%, 45% and 34%, respectively (p<0.05) compared to those who rarely or never consumed nuts (1).
Participants who already ate nuts more than 3 times per week at baseline and were placed in the Mediterranean diet enriched with mixed nuts, saw an even more significant 63% reduction in total risk of death (95%CI -34% to -78%; P=0.019) (1). They also had a 55% lower risk of death from cardiovascular disease and a 40% lower risk of death from cancers, compared to those who never ate nuts (p<0.05) (1).
In conclusion, consuming one serving of nuts more than three times per week lowered the risk of death (1). All the participants in the study were at high risk for heart disease and future research with healthy individuals is needed to determine if eating nuts would lower the risk of death in healthy people (1).
Jessica Patella, ND, is a naturopathic physician specializing in nutrition and homeopathic medicine and offers a holistic approach to health. She earned her ND from Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine in Tempe, AZ, and is a member of the North Carolina Association of Naturopathic Physicians. Visit her website at www.awarenesswellness.com.
1. Guasch-Ferre M, et al. Frequency of nut consumption and mortality risk in the PREDIMED nutrition intervention trial. BMC Medicine 2013, 11:164
2. Roger, V.L., et al. Heart disease and stroke statistics 2012 update: a report from the American Heart Association. 2012 Circulation 125, e2–e220.