Nut consumption Linked With Reduced Risk of Sudden Cardiac Death, Says Harvard Research

Nuts Like Pecans Also May Be Linked with Lesser Risk of Diabetes

When it comes to eating what is healthy for them, nut-consuming physicians seem to be in the know, according to new Harvard research. Published in the June 24 issue of the prestigious Archives of Internal Medicine (a publication of the American Medical Association), the study found that participants in the Harvard-based Physicians’ Health Study who ate the most nuts had a significantly lower incidence of sudden cardiac death during a 17-year period than participants who ate nuts fewer than twice a week.

This epidemiology study follows diet, lifestyle habits and health status of 21,454 male physicians (aged 40-84 years). During the researchers’ analyses, they found that “compared with men who rarely or never consumed nuts, those who consumed nuts 2 or more times per week had a 47 percent lower risk of sudden cardiac death and a 30 percent lower risk of total coronary heart disease death.” Sudden cardiac death is defined as a death that occurred within one hour after symptoms began.

“Although no particular nuts are singled out in this research, these findings are clearly supported by clinical studies which show that consumption of pecans can play an important role in a heart-healthy diet,” notes Sue Taylor, R.D., director of nutrition communications for the National Pecan Shellers Association.

“Moreover, pecans definitely fit the nutritional profile cited by the researchers as having a positive effect on heart-related illness,” adds Taylor. “Pecans contain nutrients like vitamin E, magnesium and unsaturated fats that the researchers suggest may be responsible for their apparent benefit.”

The study was supported by grants from the National Cancer Institute and the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.

Other Research Ties Nut Consumption To Lower Risk of Diabetes

Harvard researchers also presented preliminary research findings at the American Diabetes Association 2002 Annual Conference, suggesting that frequent nut consumption is associated with lower risk of type 2 diabetes in women. The researchers evaluated the association between frequency of nut consumption and risk of type 2 diabetes using data from the Harvard-based Nurses Health Study. Their analysis of 83,818 women, aged 34-59 years of age without a history of cardiovascular disease, cancer and diabetes — over 16 years of follow-up — showed that nut consumption was inversely associated with risk of diabetes.