According to a new U.S. study, eating a handful of nuts five times per week may reduce inflammation, a condition that contributes to heart disease, diabetes and many other chronic illnesses.
Past research has linked eating nuts to lower rates of heart disease and diabetes, but the exact reason was unknown. Now, it seems the inflammation-dampening effect of nuts could be why.
Nuts may lower inflammation because they contain fibre, magnesium, antioxidants and many phytochemicals.
To explore the connection between nuts and inflammation, the researchers analyzed data from two different long-term studies of health professionals, the Nurses’ Health Study (NHS) and the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study (HPFS).
The participants filled out questionnaires every four years documenting what they ate between 1986 and 1990 in the NHS and between 1990 and 1994 in the HPFS. The 5,013 people included in the new analysis were free of heart disease and diabetes at the beginning of the study period.
During the last two to three years of each study, blood samples were collected from subjects to look at the presence of three different biomarkers, or indicators, of inflammation.
Eating nuts five times per week tied to less inflammation
People who ate nuts at least five times per week had 20 percent lower levels of C-reactive protein (CRP) compared to people who never or rarely ate nuts. They also had 16 percent lower levels of interleukin-6 (IL-6), another inflammatory marker.
The results held after researchers accounted for other aspects of diet, as well as exercise, body weight, smoking and other factors that could influence inflammation.
Eating plenty of nuts had no effect on the third inflammatory biomarker called TNFR2, however.
For the study, one serving of nuts was defined as one ounce, or about a handful of peanuts or tree nuts, or one tablespoon of peanut butter.
The apparent benefits of nuts were similar regardless of the type of nuts people ate, though there was no benefit seen for peanut butter.
Substitute nuts for processed meat, refined grains
Researchers also calculated the effects of substituting three servings of nuts per week for three servings of red meat, processed meat, eggs or refined grains. The swap was associated with substantially lower levels of CRP and IL-6. Trading nuts for potatoes or potato chips was only linked to lower CRP.
Inflammation can reduce blood flow to the heart and brain and cause heart attacks and strokes. Inflammation is also linked to dementia, kidney disease, bowel problems and other common diseases. Reducing inflammation can prevent or delay the onset of these conditions.
Less-processed nuts may be more effective, some experts have noted. When possible, consume raw and unpeeled nuts; the skin is a god source of antioxidants.
All research on this web site is the property of Leslie Beck Nutrition Consulting Inc. and is protected by copyright. Keep in mind that research on these matters continues daily and is subject to change. The information presented is not intended as a substitute for medical treatment. It is intended to provide ongoing support of your healthy lifestyle practices.