New findings from the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston suggest that increasing nut intake, while keeping calories in check, may be a safe and low-cost means of reducing the risk of dying suddenly from heart disease.
Over a 17-year period the researchers administered questionnaires on diet, health and exercise to more than 21,000 male physicians across the US. The researchers found that men who ate two or more one-ounce servings of nuts each week had a 47% lower risk of sudden death due to heart attack compared with those who ate nuts less often. Sudden cardiac death was defined as a death that occurred within one hour after symptoms began.
While the researchers found eating nuts did not appear to lower the risk of a non-fatal heart attack or the risk of non-sudden cardiac death, the overall risk for heart disease death appeared to be 30% lower among those who ate nuts at least twice a week
The researchers suggest that the high amounts of vitamin E, magnesium, potassium in nuts, as well as their healthy unsaturated fat content may be responsible for their benefit. In particular, they noted that some nuts, such as walnuts, are relatively high in alpha-linolenic acid, a class of fatty acid that may help prevent abnormal heart rhythms and has been shown to cut the risk of sudden cardiac death among people who have already suffered a heart attack.
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