Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Nuts to You!

John Livesey PhD
Scientific Officer
Department of Endocrinology
Christchurch Hospital
New Zealand

One of the most unexpected nutritional discoveries of the 1990s was that the frequent eating of nuts appears to dramatically improve health1. In particular, nut eating greatly lowers the risk of heart disease2. In 1992 researchers working on the Adventist Health Study at Loma Linda University in California reported that those eating nuts daily had up to 60% fewer heart attacks than those who ate nuts less than once per month3. The beneficial effect of nut consumption was found for men, women, vegetarians, meat-eaters, fatter people, thinner people, the old, the young, those who did much exercise and those who did little exercise. The study was large, comprising 31,000 white Californian Seventh Day Adventists and similar benefits of nut eating were subsequently found for African Americans4. Prior to the publication of these results, nutritional advice had usually been to minimise nut consumption on the grounds that they were a "fatty" food.
Four other large studies have since confirmed the benefits to the heart of nut eating2, 5-8. In addition to the cardiac benefits of consuming nuts, the risks of having a stroke9, of developing type 2 diabetes10, of developing dementia11, of advanced macular degeneration12 and of gallstones 13 have all been found to be lowered by eating nuts. Calculations suggest that daily nut eaters gain an extra five to six years of life free of coronary disease14 and that regular nut eating appears to increase longevity by about 2 years15. Adding 30 g/day of nuts to a Mediterranean diet resulted in significant reversal of the metabolic syndrome16, and consuming pistachio nuts is reported to improve erectile function in men17.
The more often nuts are eaten the better as the benefits appear to increase as the frequency of nut consumption increases. The risk of fatal coronary disease and the risk of developing type 2 diabetes both appear to decrease steadily as nut consumption increases from less than once a week to once or more per day10, 18.

At Christmas we visited our daughter Sarah, who was diligently watching what she ate and had already lost 20lbs. What amazed me was all the nuts she was eating. I mean bowls full!  I'd always shy ed away from nuts because of the fat. So, my manly man and I started eating a couple of handfuls or more of nuts a day.(who doesn't love nuts). Well, were not doing much of anything else or we might be losing weight. We did each lose 2lbs. the third week, and I give credit to the nuts for curbing my sweet tooth and I feel better (hard to explain). I can go in a store and not buy chocolate. I do remember when I was pregnant with Sarah telling the Dr. I was craving sweets,he told me I wasn't getting enough protein. Makes sense.

                                                                     SO, my hats off to nuts!
                           It'll be interesting to see what my cholesterol is next time I have it taken.

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