Friday, July 11, 2014

Research Update: Are nuts health promoting or just fattening?

Association of nut consumption with total and cause specific mortality. New England Journal of Medicine 2013; 369:2001-11.

Objective
To examine the association between nut consumption and all-cause mortality.

Methods
76,464 women from the Nurses’ Health Study and 42,498 men from the Health Professional Follow up study were followed for 30 years. Nut consumption was measured every 4 years by means of a validated food frequency questionnaire. Risk of death was computed for increasing levels of nut consumption, while statistically controlling for potential confounding variables.

Results
By the end of follow up, there were 16,200 deaths in the Nurses’ Health Study and 11,229 deaths in the Health Professional Follow-up Study. When compared to subjects who never consumed nuts, subjects consuming 7 or more servings of nuts per week had a 20% lower risk of dying. A serving of nuts was considered to be 1 ounce.

There was a statistically significant inverse association between nut consumption and death due to cancer, heart disease, and respiratory disease. The association between nut consumption and a lower risk of morality was actually stronger for subjects that were overweight or obese.

Comment
Nuts have long been vilified for their high fat content. Those looking to improve their health or lose weight were told to strictly limit consumption. This was the wrong advice. First of all, nut consumption does not have a major impact on body weight. In both the Nurses’ Health and Health Professional cohorts, less weight gain was seen among subjects with more frequent nut consumption.

Nuts are also an extremely healthy food. They contain unsaturated fatty acids, fiber, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, protein, and other beneficial phytochemicals. The authors noted that the combination of these components has been shown to be cardio-protective, anti-carcinogenic, and anti-inflammatory.  That is likely why those who consume nuts frequently have a lower risk of dying.

Take Home Message
Nuts are a very important part of a healthy diet. Do not fear them, but appreciate them and enjoy them on a daily basis.

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