In scientific findings that give new meaning to the term "health nuts," Spanish researchers have found walnuts — and other kinds of tree nuts — can reduce the risk of death from cancer and heart disease, when consumed as part of a healthy Mediterranean diet.
In a nutrition study published in the journal BMC Medicine, scientists from the Universitat Rovira i Virgili reported people who eat more than three servings of nuts — about three ounces — per week had a 55 percent lower risk of death from cardiovascular disease and a 40 percent reduced risk of death from cancer, compared to those who eat fewer nuts.
The results also indicated individuals who follow a Mediterranean diet, heavy on nuts and virgin olive oil, have a significantly lower mortality risk from all causes — by 39 percent — than those on a standard low-fat diet, whilethose who eat a lot of walnuts cut their overall death risk even lower (by 45 percent).
What’s more, people who ate nuts tend to have a lower body mass index and a smaller waist, are more physically active, and less likely to smoke, compared with people who never or rarely ate nuts, the researchers found.
Jordi Salas-Salvad, who helped conduct the research involving more than 7,000 people, said it’s unclear why nuts — particularly walnuts — are so beneficial, but noted they are loaded with alpha-linoleic acid, phytochemicals, fiber, and minerals such as calcium, magnesium, and potassium.
The researchers also noted walnuts, which have twice the amount of healthy antioxidants as other nuts, are generally not consumed in large amounts in the U.S. and Europe.
"Questions about specific constituents, amount, duration, and type of nuts to be consumed remain to be elucidated," they added. "Meanwhile, we might need to focus on the question of how to better promote nut consumption in the population and sustainably integrate it into the daily diet …
"Currently, several dietary guidelines recommend replacing one of five servings of fruits and vegetables a day by a serving of nuts. This appears to be a simple and practical recommendation to start with."
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