• Glenn Wilson
    Dr. Greger: The Global Burden of Disease Study, the most comprehensive and systematic analysis of the causes of death ever undertaken, involved nearly 500 researchers from more than 300 institutions in 50 countries and examined nearly 100,000 data sources. The study noted which foods, if added to the diet, might save lives. Eating more vegetables could potentially save 1.8 million lives. How about more nuts and seeds? 2.5 million lives. The study calculated that not eating enough nuts and seeds was the third-leading dietary risk factor for death and disability in the world, killing more people than processed meat consumption, and potentially leading to the deaths of 15 times more people than all those who die from overdoses of heroin, crack cocaine, and all other illicit drugs combined.

    PREDIMED, one of the largest interventional dietary trials, randomized more than 7,000 men and women at high cardiovascular risk into different diet groups and followed them for years. One group received a free half-pound of nuts every week—the equivalent of eating about an extra half-ounce of nuts daily compared to what they had been consuming before the study even started. Without making major shifts in their diet, just the minor tweak of adding nuts appeared to cut stroke risk in half. Additionally, regardless of which group subjects had been assigned, those eating more nuts each day had a significantly lower risk of dying prematurely overall.

    Which nut is healthiest? Normally, my answer is whichever you’ll eat regularly, but walnuts really do seem to take the lead. They have among the highest antioxidant and omega-3 levels, and beat out other nuts in vitro in terms of suppressing cancer cell growth.

    More at the NutritionFacts topic page: Nuts.

    Not eating walnuts may double our risk of dying from heart disease (compared to at least one serving a week)—perhaps because nuts appear to improve endothelial function, allowing our arteries to better relax normally.

    Dr. Greger: Not eating walnuts may double our risk of dying from heart disease, compared to at least one serving a week. But, walnut consumption may only drop our cholesterol levels about 5%. How could we get a 50% drop in cardiac mortality from just a 5% drop in cholesterol? Walnuts must have some other heart-protecting benefits, besides just lowering cholesterol—such as improving arterial function.

    This review found five clinical trials analyzing the effect of nut consumption on the ability of our arteries to relax and open normally—considered “an excellent ‘barometer’ of underlying vascular health.” Even after controlling for other risk factors, 80% of those with better-than-average arterial function survived cardiac event-free over the years, whereas 80% of those with below-average dilation didn’t.

    And so, what effect do nuts have? All three studies on walnuts showed an improvement in endothelial function, arterial function—this so-called flow-mediated dilation measured in the arm. The one study on pistachios also found a positive effect, but the one study on hazelnuts was a wash. A subsequent study on hazelnuts, though, did find a significant improvement in arterial function, so the data on hazelnuts is mixed—whereas two subsequent walnut studies, however, confirmed walnuts’ benefits.

    Continue at NutritionFacts: Walnuts & Artery Function.

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    More in the category Health and Medical.

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