Eating at least 20 gram of nuts a day — equivalent to a handful — can reduce the risk of a wide range of diseases including heart disease and cancer, new research has found.
Handful of nuts daily can cut people’s risk of coronary heart disease by nearly 30 per cent, their risk of cancer by 15 per cent, and their risk of premature death by 22 per cent, the study said.
The study included all kinds of tree nuts, such as hazel nuts and walnuts, and also peanuts — which are actually legumes.
The results – published in the journal BMC Medicine – were in general similar whether total nut intake, tree nuts or peanuts were analysed.
What makes nuts so potentially beneficial is their nutritional value, said study co-author Dagfinn Aune from Imperial College London.
“Nuts and peanuts are high in fibre, magnesium, and polyunsaturated fats — nutrients that are beneficial for cutting cardiovascular disease risk and which can reduce cholesterol levels,” Aune said.
“Some nuts, particularly walnuts and pecan nuts are also high in antioxidants, which can fight oxidative stress and possibly reduce cancer risk,” Aune explained.
The research team analysed 29 published studies from around the world that involved up to 819,000 participants, including more than 12,000 cases of coronary heart disease, 9,000 cases of stroke, 18,000 cases of cardiovascular disease and cancer, and more than 85,000 deaths.
While there was some variation between the populations that were studied, such as between men and women, people living in different regions, or people with different risk factors, the researchers found that nut consumption was associated with a reduction in disease risk across most of them.
“Even though nuts are quite high in fat, they are also high in fibre and protein, and there is some evidence that suggests nuts might actually reduce your risk of obesity over time,” Aune said.
The study also found that if people consumed on average more than 20 gram of nuts per day, there was little evidence of further improvement in health outcomes.