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Can Heart Disease Be Prevented and Reversed?

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Can Nuts And Seeds Help Prevent Heart Disease?

Nuts and seeds are usually consumed as snack. But very often, people are told not to have too much of them because of their high fat and caloric content. In fact, nuts and seeds contains not only heart-healthy unsaturated fats but also protein, fiber, minerals and plant sterols. Eating them may help increase lifespan, lower the risk for cardiovascular disease and cancer, help in weight loss, and good for diabetes management. According to research, eating 5 or more servings (about 1 ounce) of nuts per week may reduce the risk of coronary heart disease by 35 percent.

Mediterranean diet has been known to protect against coronary heart disease. It is characterized by a high intake of olive oil, fruit, nuts, vegetables, and cereals; a moderate intake of fish and poultry; a low intake of dairy products, red meat, processed meats, and sweets; and wine in moderation, consumed with meals. In order to test the efficacy of 2 Mediterranean diets (one supplemented with extra-virgin olive oil and the other with nuts) compared to a control low-fat diet on primary cardiovascular prevention, researchers of the PREDIMED trial (Prevención con Dieta Mediterránea) designed a randomized trial.

Published April 4, 2013 in ‘The New England Journal of Medicine’, their findings showed that people in both Mediterranean groups had improvements in blood pressure, blood glucose, and cholesterol. 5 years later, they had experienced fewer heart attacks and strokes than the low-fat group. The researchers also found a link between nut consumption and a longer life. The participants who were already eating 3 or more servings of nuts a week before the study began, and then were assigned to the Mediterranean diet plus nuts group had the lowest risk of death throughout the duration of the study.

An analysis from the famous Nurses’ Health Study that included more than 76,000 women, compared multiple lifestyle and dietary factors based on the size of their associations with mortality risk. Nut intake and fiber intake were the 2 dietary factors linked to a lower risk.

Study that was published December 5, 2016 in ‘BMC Medicine’ reported that results that provided further evidence that nut consumption may reduce the risk of coronary heart disease, stroke, cardiovascular disease, total cancer, and all-cause mortality, and possibly mortality from diabetes, respiratory disease, and infectious disease. In 2013, an estimated 4.4 million deaths may be attributable to a nut intake below 20 grams per day in North and South America, Europe, Southeast Asia, and the Western Pacific. These findings support dietary recommendations to increase nut consumption to reduce chronic disease risk and mortality.

Besides increasing the absorption of nutrients in vegetables, nuts and seeds supply their own spectrum of micronutrients including plant sterols, minerals, and antioxidants. They are also a source of plant protein and fiber. Several seeds and nuts (flax, chia, and walnuts) are rich in omega-3 fatty acids can be beneficial for brain health. Some seeds like flax, chia and sesame in particular are rich in lignans, which have been shown to protect against breast and prostate cancer.

However, there are two main concerns regarding the safety of increasing nut consumption: possible weight gain and allergic reactions. By adjusting the intake, the first concern can reasonably be dispelled but the second concern may need some attention. Nuts are a well-known cause of food allergy that can be severe and even life-threatening. It is estimated that about 1 percent of the general population have food allergy. Meanwhile, there is concern regarding potential toxicity through contamination of nuts with mycotoxins, particularly aflatoxins. So, it is important to store nuts and seeds in airtight containers to prevent the oil from going rancid. Careful handling can also prevent them from being exposed to harmful bacteria.

There are many ways to introduce seeds and nuts into daily diet. One way is to replace the processed empty-calorie oils found in most salad dressings with a nut-based dressing. Or one may toss a few raw, walnuts and flaxseeds in the oatmeal at breakfast and add other nuts or seeds to the blender when making a smoothie.




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