Handful of nuts twice a week can cut chance of dying from heart disease by almost a fifth, study finds

Laura Donnelly
Those who consumed at least two portions of nuts a week had a 17 per cent lower risk of death from heart disease - Magone
Those who consumed at least two portions of nuts a week had a 17 per cent lower risk of death from heart disease - Magone

Eating a handful of nuts at least twice a week could cut the risk of dying from heart disease by almost a fifth, research has found.

Experts said they were a good source of unsaturated fat, containing polyphenols which help to prevent heart attacks and strokes.

More than 5,000 adults, aged 35 and over, with no history of heart disease, were quizzed about their diet in detail, every two years.

Over the 12 years that followed, there were 751 cardiovascular events, including 179 deaths.

The study found that those who consumed at least two portions of nuts a week had a 17 per cent lower risk of death from heart disease, compared with those who only ate them once a fortnight.

Nuts consumed included walnuts, almonds, pistachios, hazelnuts and seeds.

Researchers said the findings, presented at the European Society for Cardiology congress in Paris, showed a “robust” link even when other factors, such as exercise levels, were taken into account.

They said that nuts appeared to confer particular benefits because of the combination of nutrients they contained, including polyphenols which reduce stress on the heart and phytosterols which lower cholesterol.

Guidelines from the society suggest eating 30 grams of unsalted nuts every day.

Study author Dr Noushin Mohammadifard, of Isfahan Cardiovascular Research Institute, Iran, said:  "Nuts are a good source of unsaturated fat and contain little saturated fat. They also have protein, minerals, vitamins, fibre, phytosterols, and polyphenols which benefit heart health.”

He said eating raw nuts was best. 

"Nuts should be fresh because unsaturated fats can become oxidised in stale nuts, making them harmful.”

Heart disease is Britain’s biggest killer, with deaths from heart attacks, strokes and circulatory diseases accounting for 160,000 deaths in the UK every year.

More than 7 million people are living with heart and circulatory diseases.

The research examined the association between nut consumption and the risk of cardiovascular disease and death in the Iranian population. A total of 5,432 adults aged 35 and older with no history of cardiovascular disease were randomly selected. Participants or family members were interviewed every two years until 2013.