The more nuts you eat, the lower your incidence of heart disease.
A large prospective study of women who frequently consume nuts has found an inverse relationship between nut consumption and the incidence of heart disease.
This finding, while not new, challenges the usual dietary advice to limit nut consumption because of high fat content.
The study (part of the ongoing Nurses' Health Study), which looked at 86,000 nurses over 14 years, found that those who frequently consumed nuts (more than five servings per week) had a significantly lower risk of non fatal heart attacks and fatal heart disease. The effect remained even after adjusting for age, smoking, alcohol and other known risk factors. Further adjustments for dietary fats, fibres, fruits, vegetables and multivitamin consumption also did not alter the results.
While nuts are high in fat, these fats are usually the more beneficial monosaturated or polyunsaturated type, which have been shown to lower blood fat levels.
In addition, most nuts are rich in arginine, a precursor of nitric oxide a powerful vasodilator. Other potential benefits of nuts include high levels of magnesium, copper and folic acid, protein, potassium, fibre and vitamin E (BMJ, 1998; 317: 1332-3 and 1341-5).