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Four Ways Nuts Improve Heart Health

By Helen Berne Jacobs

Nuts are loaded with a variety of nutrients that protect the heart and blood vessels: fiber, vegetable protein, vitamin E compounds, and anti-inflammatory agents. Nuts contain compounds that favorably influence glucose use in the body, weight control, and blood vessel health.[1]

A study of more than 210,000 individuals found that people who eat nuts regularly, significantly lower their risk for heart disease.[2]

  • Eating walnuts one or more times per week was associated with a 19 percent lower risk of cardiovascular disease and 21 percent lower risk of coronary heart disease.
  • Eating either peanuts or tree nuts two or more times per week had a 13 percent and 15 percent lower risk of cardiovascular disease, respectively, and a 15 percent and 23 percent lower risk of coronary heart disease, respectively, compared to those who never consumed nuts.

Why does regular nut consumption lower the risk for heart disease?

  1. Reduces inflammation. Persistent inflammation is present in all stages of atherosclerosis development. Greater intake of nuts is linked to lower levels of biomarkers of inflammation. Researchers for the Nurses’ Health Study and Health Professionals Follow-up Study, found that participants in the study who had consumed five or more servings of nuts per week had lower levels of two inflammatory markers (CRP and IL6) than those who never or almost never ate nuts. In this study researchers adjusted for confounding variables such as age, medical history, and lifestyle.[3] Fiber and polyphenols in nuts may also have an anti-diabetic effect by altering gut microbiota that produces anti-inflammatory compounds.[4]
  2. Improves the ability of the blood vessels to dilate. Obesity, prediabetes, and type 2 diabetes significantly reduce the ability of the blood vessels to dilate. Just adding walnuts to an unrestricted diet improves the ability of the blood vessels to dilate in type 2 diabetes.[5] Another study shows similar benefits for obese individuals.[6] Almond consumption helps the blood vessels to open up.[7]
  3. Lowers LDL cholesterol and blood fats (triglycerides). Elevated triglycerides and LDL cholesterol have been linked to increased risk for atherosclerosis. Almond consumption reduces these risk factors.[8] The regular consumption of nuts reduces cholesterol absorption and reduces HMG-CoA reductase (the enzyme involved in cholesterol synthesis). Nut consumption increases bile production. Bile helps to remove cholesterol.[9]
  4. Helps with weight management. Regular nutconsumptionhas been associated with better weight management and less adiposity.[10]

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References:

[1] Kim Y. Benefits of Nut Consumption on Insulin Resistance and Cardiovascular Risk Factors: Multiple Potential Mechanisms of Actions. Nutrients. 2017 Nov 22; 9(11). pii: E1271. doi: 10.3390/nu9111271.

[2] American College of Cardiology. “Eating regular variety of nuts associated with lower risk of heart disease.” Science Daily, 13 November 2017.

[3] Brigham and Women’s Hospital. “Frequent nut consumption associated with less inflammation: Five or more servings of nuts per week or substituting nuts for animal proteins tied to a healthy profile of inflammatory biomarkers…” Science Daily. Science Daily, 29 July 2016. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/07/160729110930.htm>

[4] Kim Y. Benefits of Nut Consumption on Insulin Resistance and Cardiovascular Risk Factors: Multiple Potential Mechanisms of Actions. Nutrients. 2017 Nov 22; 9(11). pii: E1271. doi: 10.3390/nu9111271.

[5] Yingying Ma. Effects of Walnut Consumption on Endothelial Function in Type 2 Diabetic Subjects: A randomized controlled crossover trial. Diabetes Care. 2010 Feb; 33(2): 227–232.

[6] Katz DL. Effects of walnuts on endothelial function in overweight adults with visceral obesity: a randomized, controlled, crossover trial. J Am Coll Nutr. 2012 Dec; 31(6):415-23.

[7] Jamshed H. Almonds inhibit dyslipidemia and vascular dysfunction in rats through multiple pathways. J Nutr. 2014 Nov; 144(11):1768-74. doi: 10.3945/jn.114.198721.

[8] Kim Y. Benefits of Nut Consumption on Insulin Resistance and Cardiovascular Risk Factors: Multiple Potential Mechanisms of Actions. Nutrients. 2017 Nov 22; 9(11). pii: E1271. doi: 10.3390/nu9111271.

[9] Jamshed H. Almonds inhibit dyslipidemia and vascular dysfunction in rats through multiple pathways. J Nutr. 2014 Nov; 144(11):1768-74. doi: 10.3945/jn.114.198721.

[10] Rock CL. Walnut consumption in a weight reduction intervention: effects on body weight, biological measures, blood pressure and satiety. Nutr J. 2017 Dec 4;16(1):76. doi: 10.1186/s12937-017-0304-z.