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Dr. Campbell: Want to live longer? Nuts can help

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Recently, a study on the health benefits of nuts was published in the New England Journal of Medicine that showed that consumption of nuts results in a lower risk of death.

It has long been proven that consumption of nuts has been associated with a reduced risk for certain chronic diseases such as heart disease and type 2 diabetes, colon cancer, high blood pressure and others.   

But  until now, no study showed that consumption of nuts can actually reduce your risk of death.

Nuts are nutrient-dense foods that contain a lot of unsaturated fats, fiber, minerals and vitamins.  Due to a large amount of data in the early 2000s, the FDA began to recommend that people consume 1.5 ounces of nuts a day as part of a low-fat diet. Nuts contain fat, but if you eliminate other sources of fat in the diet these are acceptable.

In more recent studies, the Mediterranean diet has been shown to reduce risk for heart disease and this diet contained regular servings of nuts. 

In the recent study, nearly 75,000 women and 45,000 men were studied over several decades.  Their consumption of nuts was evaluated via a questionnaire every year or so.  What they found was that those who consumed regular servings of nuts had a much lower rate of death than those who did not.

As compared with participants who did not eat nuts, those who consumed nuts seven or more times per week had a 20 percent lower death rate. Specifically, consumption of nuts also resulted in a 27 percent reduction in heart disease deaths and a 11 percent reduction in cancer deaths.

As compared with participants who consumed nuts less frequently, those who consumed nuts more frequently were leaner, less likely to smoke, more likely to exercise, and more likely to use multivitamin supplements; they also consumed more fruits and vegetables

So that means that in addition to the benefits of the nuts themselves, the consumption of nuts may in fact be a marker for a more healthy lifestyle.

Many studies have shown that nuts are biologically active and seem to do certain things that prevent mediators of chronic disease. For example, they reduce oxidative stress (associated with heart disease and cancer), inflammation (associated with heart disease and cancer), deposition of body fat (obesity), high blood sugar and insulin resistance (associated with type 2 diabetes).  They also have been shown to reduce endothelial dysfunction, which is when the lining of blood vessels becomes more likely to form blood clots (and can result in heart attack and stroke).

As for which nuts are most beneficial, most studies and experts recommend walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts and cashews.

Tree nuts – and the studies include almonds, hazelnuts, pine nuts, cashews, pecans, brazil nuts and macadamias – are cholesterol-free.

As long as they are not covered in salt, chocolate or honey, research shows a small portion of nuts five times a week is good for us.

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