nuts can reduce risk of heart disease and cancer Print

People who eat a handful of nuts every day are less likely to develop heart disease and cancer.


Researchers looked at 20 studies that had been conducted previously on the potential benefits of eating nuts and found strong evidence that about 28 grams a day – a handful – provided around 20% reduction in risk of heart disease, cancer and death from any cause.


However, it cannot be proved nuts are solely responsible for the outcomes. It's possible that nuts might be just one part of a healthier lifestyle, including a balanced diet and exercise.  The researchers tried to factor this into the findings but using educated guesswork rather than empirical evidence.

It also means that nuts will not reduce the risk entirely, there are many non-lifestyle factors that can contribute to an individual's risk of disease. For example, if you are a male and have a family history of heart disease, eating a handful of nuts every day coupled with a healthy diet can help, but still may not eliminate the risk entirely.

Eating nuts can still credibly be linked to improved health though they are a good source of healthy unsaturated fats, protein, and can provide a range of vitamins and minerals but unsalted nuts are definitely the healthiest choice.


The findings were released by researchers from Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Trondheim, Norway, Imperial College London, and other institutions in the US and published in the medical journal BMC Medicine and can be viewed for free online.


The researchers studied 20 previous cohort studies, nine from the US, six from Europe, four from Asia and one came from Australia. All studies involved adults; five were in women only, three in men only, and 12 mixed.


Cardiovascular disease

Twelve studies (376,228 adults) found nut consumption reduced the risk of cardiovascular disease. Each 28 gram/day serving was linked with a 21% reduced risk of cardiovascular disease. This was for any nuts, but risk reductions were also found when analysing peanuts or tree nuts separately. Increasing intake was associated with reduced risk up to 15grams/day, above which there was no further risk reduction.

Looking at specific outcomes, 12 studies also found a 29% reduced risk of heart disease specifically. However, 11 studies didn't find a significant link with the outcome of stroke specifically.



Nine cohorts (304,285 adults) found that one serving of nuts per day reduced risk of any cancer by 15%. The risk reduction was higher for tree nuts (20%) than peanuts (7%).


All-cause death

Fifteen cohorts (819,448 people) recorded 85,870 deaths. One serving of nuts a day was linked with a 22% reduced risk of death.

Looking at specific causes of death, each serving of nuts a day was linked with reduced risk of respiratory deaths and diabetes deaths.

There was no link with deaths from neurodegenerative diseases, and inconsistent links with deaths from kidney disease and infectious diseases. No other disease-related causes were reported.


The researchers concluded that "Higher nut intake is associated with reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, total cancer and all-cause mortality, and mortality from respiratory disease, diabetes, and infections."


It does appear that there is a link between nut consumption and improved health, but nuts alone won't reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease or cancers, if your lifestyle is still overall unhealthy.


If you want to live a long and healthy life then you should exercise regularly and eat a balanced diet high in fruit and vegetables and low in salt, sugar and saturated fats, don’t smoke and drink alcohol in moderation.


Nuts are high in "good fats" and can be eaten in moderation as part of a healthy diet. Unsalted nuts are best as excessive amounts of salt can raise your blood pressure and increase your risk of stroke and other associated conditions.


To check your blood pressure, get help with weight reduction or giving up smoking your local pharmacy is a good place to start.  In most cases they will offer good advice free of charge and without an appointment.