Can nuts reduce the risk of heart disease?
Yes. Nuts are on the ‘must eat’ food list if you want to reduce the risk of developing heart disease. Studies show eating a daily handful of nuts (about 30g) can significantly reduce the risk of developing heart disease by up to around 40% [1, 2]. Even people who only eat nuts once a week have less heart disease than those who never eat nuts .
The association between nuts and a reduced risk of heart disease was established decades ago following the publication of four large population studies [3-6]. Since then, the evidence has continued to support and strengthen the evidence for nuts [2, 7, 8].
There are several ways that nuts are believed to reduce the risk of heart disease:
- Fatty acids: nuts contain mainly poly- and monounsaturated fats, which have been shown to help reduce total and LDL cholesterol.
- Phytosterols: nuts contain phytosterols which also reduce cholesterol.
- Amino acids: these are involved in the prevention of blood clots and in helping to keep the arteries ‘elastic’.
- Phytochemicals: nuts contain many ‘phyto’ or plant chemicals, including vitamins and minerals which act as antioxidants, helping to keep the heart and blood vessels healthy.
- Fibre: fibre can help reduce cholesterol.
- Kelly, J.H., Jr. and J. Sabate, Nuts and coronary heart disease: an epidemiological perspective. Br J Nutr, 2006. 96 Suppl 2: p. S61-7.
- Aune, D., et al., Nut consumption and risk of cardiovascular disease, total cancer, all-cause and cause-specific mortality: a systematic review and dose-response meta-analysis of prospective studies. BMC Med, 2016. 14(1): p. 207.
- Fraser, G.E., et al., A possible protective effect of nut consumption on risk of coronary heart disease. The Adventist Health Study. Arch Intern Med, 1992. 152(7): p. 1416-24.
- Ellsworth, J.L., L.H. Kushi, and A.R. Folsom, Frequent nut intake and risk of death from coronary heart disease and all causes in postmenopausal women: the Iowa Women's Health Study. Nutr Metab Cardiovasc Dis, 2001. 11(6): p. 372-7.
- Hu, F.B., et al., Frequent nut consumption and risk of coronary heart disease in women: prospective cohort study. BMJ, 1998. 317(7169): p. 1341-5.
- Albert, C.M., et al., Nut consumption and decreased risk of sudden cardiac death in the Physicians' Health Study. Arch Intern Med, 2002. 162(12): p. 1382-7.
- Neale, E., D. Nolan-Clark, and L. Tapsell, The effect of nut consumption on heart health: a systematic literature review. 2015. Nuts for Life, unpublished.
- Neale, E., et al., The effect of nut consumption on heart health: an updated systematic review of the literature. 2018. Nuts for Life, unpublished.