One way to reduce the risk of heart disease: Eat more nuts and seeds, according to a new review of 60 studies.
Scandinavian researchers found that eating nuts could reduce the risk of a heart attack.
“If you eat a handful of nuts every day, that is around 30 grams, you will have a 20% to 25% lower risk of suffering from cardiovascular disease. In comparison, adults in the Nordic countries only eat on average around 4 grams of nuts a day. Many do not eat nuts or seeds at all,” said study co-author Erik Arnesen, research fellow at the University of Oslo.
Although scientists say, “the more the better,” eating just a few nuts is better than none at all, Arnesen said in a university news release.
Almonds, pistachios and walnuts appeared to be the best for lowering cholesterol. However, researchers said there is no conclusive evidence for recommending specific kinds of nuts over others.
“Nuts have a beneficial effect on cholesterol levels in the blood, which is important to keep low in order to prevent the buildup of fat in the arteries. This atherosclerosis, as it is called, is one of the greatest risk factors for heart attacks,” Arnesen explained.
The review involved nearly 2 million participants. Although researchers also investigated whether eating nuts reduced the risk of strokes and type 2 diabetes, the results were not as clear.
Nuts do not appear to affect blood pressure, Arnesen said. Researchers could not determine whether they affect blood sugar.
But eating nuts is linked to improved cholesterol levels, even though the review can't actually prove cause and effect.
“Thanks to this systematic review and meta-analysis, we can present a more precise estimate of the actual effects. Proving that nuts lower cholesterol levels provides a credible explanation for why there is a connection between eating nuts and the risk of cardiovascular disease,” Arnesen said.
It may be that the composition of fatty acids in nuts is beneficial for this.
“Even though nuts cannot be used to treat high cholesterol, we believe that the effect is significant enough to be used as a preventive measure amongst the general population,” Arnesen said.
Results were recently published in the journal Food & Nutrition Research.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more on heart disease.
SOURCE: University of Oslo, news release, March 17, 2023