A small handful of nuts a day protects against many diseases

December 5, 2016 in Diabetes & Diabetes Prevention, Healthy Eating, Heart Health, Nutrition Topics in the News

A small handful of nuts a day protects against many diseases

A large analysis of current research shows that people who eat at least 20 grams of nuts a day - about one handful – have a lower risk of heart disease, cancer and other diseases.

The review found this daily portion of nuts can cut people's risk of coronary heart disease by nearly 30 percent, their risk of cancer by 15 percent, and their risk of premature death by 22 percent.

Eating at least 20 g of nut each day was also associated with a reduced risk of dying from respiratory disease by about a half, and diabetes by nearly 40 percent, although the researchers note that there is less data about these diseases in relation to nut consumption.

The research team analyzed 29 published studies from around the world that involved up to 819,000 participants, including more than 12,000 cases of coronary heart disease, 9,000 cases of stroke, 18,000 cases of cardiovascular disease and cancer, and more than 85,000 deaths.

While there was some variation between the populations that were studied, such as between men and women, people living in different regions, or people with different risk factors, the researchers found that nut consumption was associated with a reduction in disease risk across most of them.

The study also found that if people consumed more than 20 g of nuts per day, there was little evidence of further improvement in health outcomes.

The researchers found a consistent reduction in risk across many different diseases, which is a strong indication that there is a real underlying relationship between nut consumption and different health outcomes. The researchers say it's a substantial effect for such a small amount of food.

Related: A nutrition guide to nut and seed butters

It doesn't take many nuts to reap health benefits

Most of the protective effect of nuts was associated with eating 20 g per day; eating a larger portion didn’t further reduce disease risk. 

Twenty grams of nuts isn’t a lot. It’s equivalent to 15 almonds, 4 Brazil nuts, 13 cashews, 14 hazelnuts, 8 macadamia nuts, 20 peanuts, 13 pecan halves, 34 pistachios or 10 walnut halves.

All types of nuts beneficial

The study included all kinds of tree nuts, including hazel nuts, walnuts, and also peanuts (which are actually legumes). The results were in general similar whether total nut intake, tree nuts or peanuts were analyzed.

Nuts and peanuts are high in fibre, magnesium and unsaturated fats -- nutrients that are beneficial for cutting cardiovascular disease risk.

Some nuts, particularly walnuts and pecan nuts are also high in antioxidants, which can fight oxidative stress and possibly reduce cancer risk.

Even though nuts are quite high in fat, they are also high in fibre and protein, and there is some evidence that suggests nuts might actually reduce your risk of obesity over time.

Source: BMC Medicine, December 5, 2016.

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.