Nut consumption, lipids, and risk of a coronary event

Asia Pac J Clin Nutr. 2000 Sep;9 Suppl 1:S28-32. doi: 10.1046/j.1440-6047.2000.00181.x.


In the past many have avoided nuts because of their high fat content. The Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension diet, however, recommends regular consumption of this food along with seeds and dried beans (4-5 servings per week) as part of a diet to control hypertension. Nuts are nutrient-dense and most of their fat is unsaturated. They are also perhaps the best natural source of vitamin E and are relatively concentrated repositories of dietary fibre, magnesium, potassium and arginine, which is the dietary precursor of nitric oxide. Human feeding studies have demonstrated reductions of 8-12% in low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol when almonds and walnuts are substituted for more traditional fats. Other studies show that macadamias and hazelnuts appear at least as beneficial as fats in commonly recommended diets. Whether the daily consumption of modest quantities of nuts may promote obesity is not known with certainty, but preliminary data suggest that this is unlikely. Four of the best and largest cohort studies in nutritional epidemiology have now reported that eating nuts frequently is associated with a decreased risk of coronary heart disease in the order of 30-50%. The findings are very consistent in subgroup analyses and unlikely to be due to confounding. Possible mechanisms include reduction in LDL cholesterol, the antioxidant actions of vitamin E, and the effects on the endothelium and platelet function of higher levels of nitric oxide. Although nuts may account for a relatively small percentage of dietary kilojules, the potential interacting effects of these factors on disease risk may be considerable.