Frequently eating nuts and seeds can reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke, according to a new study from the University of Oslo.
Diets that are high in nuts and seeds can lower cholesterol levels and reduce the risk of heart disease, according to a systematic review and meta-analysis from the University of Oslo. The researchers examined the findings of over 60 previous studies before concluding. The review comes as part of the development of new dietary guidelines in the Nordic countries.
The study, titled ‘Nuts and seeds consumption and risk of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and their risk factors: a systematic review and meta-analysis,’ has been published in the Journal of Food and Nutrition Research.
Only a small intake is needed to lower the risk of heart disease
“If you eat a handful of nuts every day, that is around 30 grams; you will have a 20-25% lower risk of suffering from cardiovascular disease. In comparison, adults in Nordic countries only eat, on average, around four grams of nuts a day. Many do not eat nuts or seeds at all,” said Erik Arnesen, a research fellow at the University of Oslo and the first author of the study.
The researchers say that eating just a few nuts per day can help lower cholesterol and reduce the risk of heart disease. Some studies suggest that almonds, pistachios, and walnuts are best for lowering cholesterol. Still, according to the researchers, there is no conclusive evidence for recommending specific nuts over others.
“Nuts have a beneficial effect on cholesterol levels in the blood, which it is important to keep low in order to prevent the build-up of fat in the arteries. This atherosclerosis, as it is called, is one of the greatest risk factors for heart attacks,” explained Arnesen.
Nuts and seeds can also lower type 2 diabetes risk
The researchers also investigated a possible association between the intake of nuts and seeds and reduced risk of strokes and type 2 diabetes.
“We are not sure about this. Nuts do not appear to affect blood pressure, which is one of the risk factors behind strokes. We cannot be sure whether nuts are good for blood sugar levels either, which are linked to the risk of type 2 diabetes,” said Arnesen.
Despite several previous studies pointing to a positive link between nuts and seeds and reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, this was the biggest review on the topic to date. The study has allowed researchers to confirm the link.
“Thanks to this systematic review and meta-analysis, we can present a more precise estimate of the actual effects. Proving that nuts lower cholesterol levels provides a credible explanation for why there is a connection between eating nuts and the risk of cardiovascular disease,” added
The researchers believe one of the reasons for this association is the composition of fatty acids in nuts and seeds.
“Even though nuts cannot be used to treat high cholesterol, we believe that the effect is significant enough to be used as a preventive measure amongst the general population”, concluded Arnesen.