, Volume 1, Issue 3, pp 204-209

Nut consumption and risk of coronary heart disease: A review of epidemiologic evidence

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Abstract

Traditionally nuts have been perceived as an unhealthy food because of their high fat content. However, recent accumulative evidence suggests that frequent consumption of nuts may be protective against coronary heart disease (CHD). So far, five large prospective cohort studies (the Adventist Health Study, the Iowa Women Health Study, the Nurses’ Health Study, the Physicians’ Health Study, and the CARE Study) have examined the relation between nut consumption and the risk of CHD and all have found an inverse association. In addition, several clinical studies have observed beneficial effects of diets high in nuts (including walnuts, peanuts, almonds, and other nuts) on blood lipids. The beneficial effects of nut consumption observed in clinical and epidemiologic studies underscore the importance of distinguishing different types of fat. Most fats in nuts are mono- and polyunsaturated fats that lower low-density lipoprotein cholesterol level. Based on the data from the Nurses’ Health Study, we estimated that substitution of the fat from 1 ounce of nuts for equivalent energy from carbohydrate in an average diet was associated with a 30% reduction in CHD risk and the substitution of nut fat for saturated fat was associated with 45% reduction in risk. Given the strong scientific evidence for the beneficial effects of nuts, it seems justifiable to move nuts to a more prominent place in the United States Department of Agriculture Food Guide Pyramid. Regular nut consumption can be recommended in the context of a healthy and balanced diet.