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Eating Nuts May Lengthen Life

Diane Fennell

July 26, 2013

People who eat nuts, and in particular walnuts, more than three times a week have a reduced risk of death from cardiovascular disease and cancer, according to new research from Spain. Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in people who have diabetes.

Previous studies have indicated that increasing nut consumption can lower the risk of death from coronary heart disease and cancer. To investigate the link between frequency of nut consumption and risk of death in those at high cardiovascular risk, researchers looked at over 7,000 older people (ages 55 to 90) in Spain. Participants were randomly assigned to follow either a Mediterranean diet (a style of eating that emphasizes fruits, vegetables, beans, whole grains, seeds, nuts, and healthful fats such as olive oil) supplemented with extra virgin olive oil, a Mediterranean diet supplemented with nuts, or a low-fat eating plan.

After a follow-up period of 4.8 years, the researchers found that people who ate nuts generally had a lower body-mass index (a measure of weight relative to height) and a smaller waist compared to those who rarely or never ate nuts. They were also more likely to be physically active and less likely to smoke. Additionally, there were fewer people who had Type 2 diabetes or who were taking medicine for high blood pressure in the group that consumed the most nuts.

People eating more than three servings a week of nuts (with a serving considered to be 28 grams, or roughly 1 ounce, of nuts) reduced their risk of dying from cardiovascular disease by 55% and their risk of dying from cancer by 40%. Overall, those eating nuts had a 39% lower risk of death, and people who included walnuts in their diet had a 45% lower risk of death.

According to lead study author Jordi Salas-Salvadó, MD, PhD, “Quite how nuts are able prevent premature mortality is not entirely clear, nor why walnut[s] should be better for you than other nuts. Walnuts have particularly high content of alpha-linoleic acid and phytochemicals, especially in their skin both of which, along with fiber and minerals such as calcium, magnesium and potassium, may contribute to their healthy effect.”

For more information, read the article “People Who Eat Nuts More Than Three Times a Week Have Reduced Risk of Dying from Cancer or Cardiovascular Disease” or see the study in the journal BMC Medicine. And to learn more about the health benefits of nuts for people with diabetes, click here.



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