By TAP Integrative
Nuts provide a dietary source of protein, essential fatty acids, fiber, vitamin E, magnesium, and a variety of bioactive compounds, such as ellagic acid, genistein, and resveratrol. Tree nuts include walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts, cashews, pistachios, and pecans. Peanuts and Brazil nuts, although not scientifically categorized as nuts, are also considered in the broader category of nuts because of their nutritional properties.
Nut consumption has been associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular disease and all-cause mortality, but previous reports and meta-analyses have not been comprehensive. In an attempt to provide the most updated summary estimates of the association between nut consumption and mortality, Aune and colleagues published a comprehensive meta-analysis in BMC Medicine in 2016.
The meta-analysis included 29 prospective studies of nut intake and risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer, cause-specific mortality, or all-cause mortality in adult populations. Relative risks (RRs) were calculated for the highest versus lowest nut consumption as well as for one 28-gram serving per day increase in nut intake.
For one serving per day increase in nut intake, the RRs were, for coronary heart disease 0.71, stroke 0.93, cardiovascular disease 0.79, total cancer 0.85, all-cause mortality 0.78, mortality from respiratory disease 0.48, diabetes 0.61, neurodegenerative disease 0.65, infectious disease 0.25, and kidney disease 0.27. The number of studies evaluating specific types of nuts was limited, but results appeared to be similar between tree nuts and peanuts. Most risk reduction was observed at nut intakes of approximately 15-20 grams per day (approximately 10-20 nuts, depending on the type of nut), eaten 5-6 times per week.
The authors calculated that, if nut consumption were causally linked to mortality, a total of 4.4 million deaths may have been attributable to a nut intake less than 20g per day in the year 2013 in the regions assessed (North and South America, Europe, Southeast Asia, and the Western Pacific).
The results of this meta-analysis provide the most comprehensive data to date to support a recommendation to increase nut consumption for the purposes of reducing the risk of chronic disease and mortality.
Aune D, Keum N, Giovannucci E, et al. Nut consumption and risk of cardiovascular disease, total cancer, all-cause and cause-specific mortality: a systematic review and dose-response meta-analysis of prospective studies. BMC Med. 2016;14(1):207.
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