Nuts may protect against heart disease

A new study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology looks at the impact of nut consumption on the risk of cardiovascular disease.
different kinds of nuts
Walnuts, peanuts, and tree nuts are great for cardiovascular health, new research shows.

Nuts are good for you. This is a known fact, supported by an ever-growing number of studies. For instance, Medical News Today have recently reported on a major study showing that only a handful of nuts every day slashes the risk of premature death.

Diabetes risk drops by 40 percent with only 20 grams of nuts per day, and the risk of infectious diseases drops by 75 percent. Other studies have suggested that nuts can protect our memory and even boost intelligence.

But what might nuts do for our cardiovascular health? The new study — led by Marta Guasch-Ferré, Ph.D., a research fellow in the Department of Nutrition at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston, MA — examines the link between the frequency of nut consumption and the incidence of cardiovascular disease.

Additionally, and in contrast with previous research on the subject, this study also looks at specific kinds of nut and their impact on cardiovascular health.

Studying nut consumption and heart health

Guasch-Ferré and her team examined more than 210,000 people, combining data from the Nurses’ Health Study I and II as well as the Health Professionals Follow-up Study.

Overall, they followed the participants for a total of 32 years, with medical and lifestyle information being collected every 2 years using self-administered questionnaires.

Food-frequency questionnaires offered the researchers information about the participants’ nut consumption every 4 years.

The researchers focused on major cardiovascular disease, defined as myocardial infarction, stroke, or fatal cardiovascular disease. Additionally, they looked at the total incidence of coronary heart disease, understood as fatal or non-fatal myocardial infarction, and the total incidence of stroke, either fatal or non-fatal.

During the study period, the researchers recorded 14,136 cases of cardiovascular disease, 8,390 of which were coronary heart disease and 5,910 of which were stroke.

Nuts cut risk of cardiovascular disease

Total nut consumption and total cardiovascular and coronary heart disease risk were found to be inversely related. In other words, the more nuts one consumes, the lower one’s chances are of developing these conditions.

A more in-depth look at specific kinds of nut revealed that walnuts are particularly good for cardiovascular health.

Consuming walnuts two to three times every week was associated with a 19 percent decrease in cardiovascular risk, and a 21 percent decrease in coronary heart disease risk.

Eating peanuts at least twice each week was linked with a 13 percent lower risk of cardiovascular disease, and tree nuts with a 15 percent lower cardiovascular risk.

Peanut intake also correlated with a 15 percent reduction in coronary heart disease risk, and tree nuts with a 23 percent risk reduction.

Five or more servings of nuts per week correlated with a 14 percent decrease in cardiovascular risk and a 20 percent lower risk of coronary heart disease.

“In three large prospective cohort studies,” the study authors conclude, “higher consumption of total and specific types of nuts was inversely associated with total cardiovascular disease and coronary heart disease.”

‘Raw nuts as natural health capsules’

“Our findings support recommendations of increasing the intake of a variety of nuts, as part of healthy dietary patterns, to reduce the risk of chronic disease in the general populations,” says Guasch-Ferré.

She and her colleagues also note some study limitations. The sample of participants was restricted to health professionals — most of whom were white — and the method of self-reported data is always prone to errors.

However, the authors emphasize that in their opinion, there is no reason why the findings would not be generalizable to other ethnicities.

Dr. Emilio Ros, of the Endocrinology and Nutrition service at the Hospital Clínic in Barcelona, Spain, wrote an accompanying editorial, in which he comments on the significance of the findings.

“Ideally,” he says, “further investigations should test the effects of long-term consumption of nuts supplemented into the usual diet on hard cardiometabolic events.”

In the meantime, raw nuts, if possible unpeeled and otherwise unprocessed, may be considered as natural health capsules that can be easily incorporated into any heart-protective diet to further cardiovascular well-being and promote healthy aging.”

Dr. Emilio Ros

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Three to four cups of coffee per day slash disease risk

More good news for coffee drinkers: a review of existing studies has found that overall, moderate coffee consumption is tied to a much lower risk of chronic disease. However, there are some caveats.
coffee with happy face
Coffee is likely to be great for your health, suggests new research.

Here at Medical News Today, we often report on studies that examine the health benefits of coffee. And, much to our delight as drinkers of coffee, most of these studies bear good news.

One study, for example, suggested that coffee may drastically reduce the risk of early death in women with diabetes, while one more general study suggested that the beverage can lower the chances of heart failure or stroke.

Another one reported that coffee could halve the risk of premature mortality among those with HIV or hepatitis C. But how reliable are these studies? And, if you combined all of the research done on coffee and pooled together all of their conclusions, what would be the verdict?

New research explores precisely these aspects. The study was led by Dr. Robin Poole, a specialist registrar in public health at the University of Southampton in the United Kingdom, and the findings were published in The BMJ.

‘Largest risk reduction’ at three to four cups

Dr. Poole and colleagues examined 201 meta-analyses of existing observational studies, and 17 meta-analyses of clinical trials.

Overall, the team found that moderate coffee consumption is “more likely to benefit health than to harm it.” Moderate coffee intake is usually considered to be around four or five daily cups, or the equivalent of up to 400 milligrams of caffeine per day.

More specifically, the researchers found that coffee intake was linked with a decrease in the risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, cirrhosis, and diabetes.

Additionally, the beverage correlated with a lower risk of mortality from all causes, as well as mortality from cardiovascular disease in particular.

“Coffee consumption seems generally safe within usual levels of intake,” write the researchers, “with summary estimates indicating largest risk reduction for various health outcomes at three to four cups a day.”

In fact, three cups of coffee per day lowered the risk of coronary heart disease by 19 percent, and that of mortality from stroke by 30 percent. A high coffee intake was linked with an 18 percent decrease in cancer risk, compared with a low intake.

The greatest risk reduction was noticed for liver cirrhosis: “any versus no coffee consumption” was linked to a 39 percent lower risk of developing this condition.

However, the authors caution that most existing studies on the benefits of coffee are “of lower quality,” as they are merely observational and do not explain causality.

So, the authors urge that “robust randomized controlled trials are needed to understand whether the observed associations are causal.”

‘Coffee is safe, but hold the cake’

In an accompanying editorial, Eliseo Guallar — from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore, MD — comments on the findings. “Should doctors recommend drinking coffee to prevent disease? Should people start drinking coffee for health reasons? The answer to both questions is ‘no.’”

“The evidence is so robust and consistent across studies and health outcomes, however, that we can be reassured that drinking coffee is generally safe,” he continues.

However, women at risk of bone fractures and those who are pregnant may not derive the same health benefits from coffee, the research revealed.

Finally, Guallar cautions that drinking coffee is sometimes linked with less healthful habits, such as eating sugary cakes or other fatty products. “Coffee is safe, but hold the cake,” he writes.

All in all, however, the benefits seem to outweigh the risks.

Even with these caveats, moderate coffee consumption seems remarkably safe, and it can be incorporated as part of a healthy diet by most of the adult population.”

Eliseo Guallar

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Acknowledgment

The program is jointly provided by the University of Kentucky and DKBmed in collaboration with Postgraduate Institute for Medicine.

This activity is supported by an independent educational grant from the Opioid Analgesic REMS Program Companies.

This training has been approved by the KBML as meeting the statutory requirements of HB1.

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