Nuts are one of the healthiest and most nutritious snacks out there, with their rich fiber content , low saturated fats, and high levels of antioxidants. New research indicates that nuts can have far more wide-ranging health benefits than we think.
Nuts are filled with value for nutrition. Nuts have earned their place in the category of “superfood,” rich in unsaturated fatty acids, fiber, vitamins , minerals, and various antioxidants.
Research has shown that nut consumption has decreased the risk of coronary heart disease, stroke , and cancer so far, but new research suggests that their health benefits can extend far beyond these major diseases.
Researchers from the United Kingdom’s Imperial College London and the Norwegian University of Science and Technology in Norway analyzed a range of existing studies and identified links between the consumption of nuts and the risk of various diseases.
The results were published in BMC Medicine, a journal.
The research consisted of a meta-analysis of 29 existing studies, including Europe, Asia , and Australia, from around the world.
To search for prospective studies of nut consumption and risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD), total cancer cases, all-cause mortality rates, and cause-specific mortality rates published up to 19 July 2016, researchers used the PubMed and Embase medical research databases.
The study included 819,448 participants and included more than 12,300 coronary heart disease cases, more than 9,200 stroke cases, more than 18,600 CVD cases, and around 18,400 cancer cases.
The study examined the association between the consumption of nuts and mortality from a variety of causes, including respiratory diseases , diabetes, neurodegenerative diseases, infectious diseases, and kidney diseases.
All kinds of tree nuts, including hazelnuts, walnuts, cashews, macadamia nuts and pine nuts, as well as peanuts that are actually legumes, were included in the study.
A handful of nuts a day enough to cut risk of various diseases
An average 22 percent decrease in the risk of all-cause mortality was correlated with eating a handful of nuts daily.
The study found that as little as 20 grams a day would reduce the risk of coronary heart disease by almost 30 percent, the risk of CVD by 21 percent, and the risk of all cancers by 15 percent, the equivalent of a handful.
The risk of respiratory disease, at 52 percent, was shown to decrease by more than half.
Eating a handful of nuts every day also reduced about 40 percent of the risk of diabetes and 75 percent of the risk of infectious diseases.
The risk of coronary heart disease, CVD, and mortality appeared to be decreased by both peanuts and tree nuts, but only peanuts reduced the risk of stroke. In addition, a decreased risk of cancer was related to only tree nuts.
The majority of the risk reduction was associated with an intake of approximately 15-20 grams per day, and if the intake was increased, no further reduction was reported.
In order to fully benefit from the nutritional properties of nuts and to avoid preventable mortality, researchers therefore suggest that a minimum of 20 grams is needed:
“Under the assumption that the observed associations are causal we estimated that approximately 4.4 million premature deaths in the regions covered, including North and South America, Europe, Southeast Asia, and Western Pacific, may be attributable to a nut intake below 20 grams per day.”
However, the authors warn that such an estimation relies on the premise that there is a causal correlation between consumption of nuts and health outcomes. This analysis can not provide such causality.
Why are nuts good for you?
The importance of the outcomes is clarified by study lead author Dagfinn Aune, from the School of Public Health at Imperial College London.
Across several different diseases, we have found a clear reduction in risk, “he says,” which is a strong indicator that there is a real underlying relationship between nut intake and various health outcomes. For such a small amount of food, that is quite a substantial impact.
He also discusses how the good health results could be responsible for the nutritional value of nuts.
Aune states, “Nuts and peanuts are rich in fiber, magnesium, and polyunsaturated fats, nutrients that are beneficial for reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease and can minimize the level of cholesterol.”
Previous studies have also shown that nuts are rich in antioxidants, delivering more antioxidants than fruits and vegetables combined in a single serving of walnuts.
Mixed nuts have also been shown in patients with metabolic syndrome to increase insulin resistance and decrease inflammation.
“Some nuts are also high in antioxidants, particularly walnuts and pecan nuts, which can combat oxidative stress and possibly reduce the risk of cancer,” says Aune. “Even though nuts are quite high in fat, they are also high in fiber and protein, and there is some evidence that suggests nuts might actually reduce your risk of obesity over time . ”