Health – Thoughts on Nuts

The following is an excerpt from the book, Proof Positive, by Neil Nedley, M.D.
He shares some very interesting insight into nut consumption and your health.

“… Nuts in general have been studied extensively and have been found not only to lower blood cholesterol levels, but also to provide a corresponding decrease in the risk of heart disease. …

“This study on nut consumption was conducted at Loma Linda University and has received international attention. [Fraser GE, Sabate J, et al. A possible protective effect of nut consumption on risk of coronary heart disease. The Adventist Health Study. Arch Intern Med 1992 Jul;152(7):1416-1424.] The initial study focused on the amount of nuts eaten by the participants in the Adventist Health Study. They found that those consuming nuts less than once per week had the highest risk of heart attack. Those who consumed nuts one to four times per week lowered their risk about 25 percent … Those who consumed nuts more than five times a week cut their risk in half. The study was controlled for other lifestyle variables so that the researchers could be more certain that the nuts were the only factor involved. Many health professionals were surprised by the findings of this study. Previously, health professionals commonly encouraged patients to avoid nuts because of their high fat content. Now we know that nuts in small to moderate amounts are part of a healthful diet because they supply some fat nutrients that are beneficial for preventing heart disease.

“Regarding peanuts, the fat in peanuts has a specific chemistry and triglyceride structure (apart from the saturated and polyunsaturated content) that makes them surprisingly harder on your arteries than other vegetable fats. [Kritchevsky D. Dietary fat and experimental atherosclerosis. Int J Tissue React 1991;13(2):59-65.] Thus, a person who wants to protect his arteries would be wise to choose other nuts such as almonds, walnuts, or pecans in place of peanuts. Almonds have another advantage. They are unique among the nut food group in that they contain far more vitamin E than other nuts; in fact, they exceed just about all other foods in this regard. … The realization of some of the peanut fat’s negative aspects leaves me impressed with a statement I read about nuts that was written nearly 100 years ago in the classic book on the principles of health, The Ministry of Healing, [298], written by Ellen White: ‘With nuts may be combined grains, fruits, and some roots, to make foods that are healthful and nourishing. Care should be taken, however, not to use too large a proportion of nuts. … some nuts are not so wholesome as others. Almonds are preferable to peanuts, but peanuts in limited quantities, used in connection with grains, are nourishing and digestible.’

“Why did she warn against excessive nut consumption? One likely reason is that a high fat diet (even if from ‘good’ fats) tends to promote weight gain. For many people, a large proportion of nuts in their diet may contribute to obesity. The overweight condition itself can raise cholesterol levels and increase the risk of heart disease and other health problems.’ ” Proof Positive, 68, 69.

Dr. Nedley then goes on to share about a study done by Dr. Sabate [Sabate J, Fraser GE, et al. Effects of walnuts on serum lipid levels and blood pressure in normal men. N Engl J Med 1993 Mar 4;328(9):603-607].

“Dr. Sabate took the nut research a step further. Instead of using Seventh-day Adventists again, who are already on a better overall diet than most Americans, he now studied individuals on an average American diet. One half of the total group was placed on an average diet. The other half were fed an identical-looking diet with one major difference. Walnuts were blended up and added to various food items. Other sources of fat were decreased to keep the calorie and total fat levels the same in the two groups. … Walnuts reduce cholesterol: The study group ate 1 ½ cups – 84 grams of walnuts daily for 4 weeks. Average LDL – bad cholesterol was reduced by 18 mg/dl.

“Eating walnuts daily had some amazing results. LDL cholesterol, the ‘bad cholesterol,’ dropped by 18 points. This represents a remarkable lowering of heart attack risk. For each percentage point drop in the bad cholesterol, there is a two to three percent drop in the heart attack rate. [Report of the National Cholesterol Education Program Expert Panel on Detection, Evaluation, and Treatment of High Blood Cholesterol in Adults. The Expert Panel. Arch Intern Med 1988 Jan;148(1):36-69.]

“An 18 point drop in LDL translates into a 36 to 54 percent drop in heart disease risk. The benefits of walnuts may not simply be due to their excellent P/S ratio. These nuts are also high in so-called omega-3 fatty acids, which have some special benefits.” Ibid., 69.

The foregoing excerpts give us a deeper understanding of how certain nuts work on our bodies. We are “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14) and God has provided for each of our needs. We are blessed to have such information to guide us along the nutrition pathway.