Consuming Raw Nuts Could Lower the Risk of Heart Attacks and Strokes, Reveals Study
Research studies in the past have revealed the numerous benefits of consuming nuts on a regular basis. Now, a new study has found that eating unsalted nuts, such as walnuts, almonds and pistachios, in their raw form, considerably lowers the risk of death from heart attacks and strokes.
 
The research, which was recently presented at ESC (European Society of Cardiology) Congress 2019, a summit of the world’s leading cardiologists, found that those who ate nuts at least twice a week were 17% less likely to die from cardiovascular disease. 
 
For the study, researchers examined the association between consumption of nuts, the risk of cardiovascular disease and death, in Iranian population. Researchers gathered and analysed data from a total of 5,432 adults aged 35 years or older, with no history of cardiovascular disease, who were randomly selected from urban and rural areas of the Isfahan, Arak and Najafabad counties. The participants were asked to undertake a validated food frequency questionnaire in 2001 which assessed the intake of nuts like walnuts, almonds, pistachios, hazelnuts and seeds.
 
Researchers interviewed participants or family members, every two years until 2013, checking for the occurrence of cardiovascular events and death. During such interviews, the researchers were specifically concerned about outcomes such as coronary heart disease, stroke, total cardiovascular disease, death from any cause as well as death from cardiovascular disease. 
 
A median 12-year follow-up concluded that there were 751 cardiovascular events, of which 594 were coronary heart disease and 157 were strokes. There were also 179 cardiovascular deaths and 458 all-cause deaths. Detailed analysis of the collated data revealed that consumption of nuts more than twice a week proved beneficial in deterring deaths due to cardiovascular diseases. The researchers further found that this connection between consumption of nuts and a healthy heart was robust even after adjusting for factors that could influence this relationship, such as age, sex, education, smoking and physical activity. They realised that intake of nuts was inversely associated with the other outcomes but lost significance after adjustment. 
 
Dr Noushin Mohammadifard of Isfahan Cardiovascular Research Institute (Iran), who led the study, 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 hearth health. European and US studies have related nuts with cardiovascular protection but there is limited evidence from the Eastern Mediterranean Region.”
 
According to ESC guidelines, 30gm (grams) of unsalted nuts per day is one of the characteristics of a healthy diet and the energy density of nuts is high as well. “Raw fresh nuts are the healthiest. Nuts should be fresh because unsaturated fats can become oxidised in stale nuts, making them harmful. You can tell if nuts are rancid by their paint-like smell and bitter or sour taste.”
 
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    A New Study Shows Walnuts Protect against Ulcerative Colitis
    Past research has confirmed the power of walnuts in reducing blood pressure and improving brain health. Now, a new study has found walnuts to be helpful in protection against ulcerative colitis or, more simply, ulcers in your colon. 
     
    The study was conducted by a team of researchers from University of Connecticut and Texas A&M University led by Dr Daniel Rosenberg, professor of medicine, and Dr Masako Nakanishi from the Centre for Molecular Oncology. The findings have been published in the journal Nutrients. Ulcerative colitis is a form of inflammatory bowel disease where the colon or rectum becomes irritated and develops small sores called ulcers. These ulcers cause contents to move along rapidly, resulting in frequent bowel movements, as well as rectal bleeding and discharge of pus or mucus. This disease is chronic; so, generally, treatment focuses on reducing inflammation to prevent flare-ups, typically, by anti-inflammatory medications. 
     
    This new research was conducted with the aim to study beneficial compounds such as walnuts as a potential measure of protection against ulcerative colitis. 
     
    For the study, groups of mice were give ground whole walnuts in varying quantities, depending on their body mass ranging from 0g walnuts/kg of body mass to 14g walnuts /kg of body mass, for a period of two weeks. The researchers induced colonic mucosal injury, a symptom of ulcerative colitis, five days after the end of the diet in the same group of mice by administering an ulcerogenic (ulcer inducing) agent called dextran sodium sulphate (DSS). The mice were later examined after either two or ten days following DSS withdrawal.
     
    The gathered data was analysed to reveal that the group of mice which ingested walnuts at 14g/kg of body mass daily for two weeks exhibited significantly less severe ulceration at the 10-day examination period. The researchers believe that ingestion of walnuts essentially pre-conditioned the colon. Although it could not be determined with certainty whether the pre-conditioned colon was resisting the initial ulcerogenic damage or facilitating the repair of the damage, the extent of injury in the walnut-treated mice was far less than in the non-treated mice. 
     
    The research team also studied changes in metabolites in the faecal stream and tissue after two weeks of being fed walnuts and observed a number of alterations. This additional discovery, connected by Dr Cory Klemashevich, assistant research scientist at Texas A&M University, showed some changes in metabolites which could be crucial in further understanding of how walnuts may be metabolised and working in the colon.
     
    “We are continuing our work to understand whether those metabolic changes are a part of the protection,” said Dr Rosenberg. “We are not suggesting that people with ulcerative colitis be maintained on a large walnut diet between active flares. But, we are hoping that we’ll be able to determine the active compounds—nutrients, photo-chemicals—in walnuts that cause protection.”
     
    This study is preliminary and more research is being done to better understand the working of walnuts within human bodies. At the moment, Dr Rosenberg’s lab is running a clinical trial, by one of his graduate students, wherein participants are consuming two ounces of walnuts daily for three weeks before a scheduled colonoscopy. The team will then analyse their metabolites and gut microbiota and also assess their bio-markers.
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    Plant-based Diet Reduces Risk of Heart Disease, Observes New Study
    Eating more plant-based foods and less animal products lowers the risk of death due to cardiovascular diseases, a new study has concluded. Published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, this new research emphasises the importance of plant-based diet for better heart health and a lower risk of dying from a heart-attack, stroke or other cardiovascular diseases.
     
    Researchers used data from the “Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities” study on 12,168 middle-aged adults who were followed from 1987 to 2016. Participants were classified, based on one of four diet indexes; a plant-based diet index, a pro-vegetarian diet index (preference for plant-derived foods but not exclusion of animal foods), a healthy plant-based diet index and less-healthy plant-based diet index. In each category, individuals were given higher or lower scores, based on the intake of the specified quality of plant-based and animal foods. For example, a healthy plant-based diet was characterised by consumption of whole grains, vegetables and plant proteins, whereas an unhealthy plant-based diet had higher consumption of plant sources of food with refined carbohydrates and sugar.
     
    Among other factors, researchers also considered the height, weight, BMI (body mass index), sex, age, race as well as participants’ educational attainment and how much they exercised. The goal was to find out how many participants developed cardiovascular diseases and how many died from a direct result of such diseases. It is important to note that the participants were not suffering from heart disease at the start of the study in 1987.
     
    Researchers found that greater adherence to a healthy plant-based diet index was associated with 19% lower risk for development of cardiovascular diseases and 11% lower risk for all-cause mortality. Eating a healthy plant-based diet was linked to 16% lower risk of developing cardiovascular disease, while the chance of dying from such conditions was 32% lower, compared to those following other diets. These participants were also 18% to 25% less likely to die within the period of the study. 
     
    Those who scored highest for healthy, plant-based diets ate an average of 4.1 to 4.8 servings of fruits and vegetables per day and 0.8 to 0.9 servings of red or processed meat per day. They also ate more nutrient-rich carbohydrates and plant protein, and less of foods containing saturated fat and cholesterol. These group of participants also consumed more polyunsaturated fat, which is found in foods like oily fish. Participants in the less healthy plant-based group ate 2.3 servings of fruit and vegetables per day, and 1.2 servings of red or processed meat. They also consumed more carbohydrates which had less fibre and nutrients than the other group of participants. 
     
    Overall, the study concluded that followers of the healthy plant-based diet were less likely to have cardiovascular diseases or die from such diseases or other causes, for that matter. But those who ate the most animal products had a higher risk of cardiovascular diseases and overall death, compared with those who consumed the least. 
     
    This is one of the first studies to examine the proportion of plant-based versus animal-based dietary patterns in the general population, noted Dr Casey Rebholz, lead researcher and assistant professor of epidemiology at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Earlier studies have shown heart health benefits from plant-based diets but only in specific populations of people such as vegetarians or vegans. 
     
    Dr Rebholz has hopes that future research on plant-based diets would examine whether the quality of plant foods—healthy versus less healthy—impacts cardiovascular disease and death risks.
     
    “The American Heart Association recommends eating a mostly plant-based diet, provided the foods you choose are rich in nutrition and low in added sugars, sodium (salt), cholesterol and artery-clogging saturated and trans fats,” said Dr Mariell Jessup, chief science and medical officer of the American Heart Association. Dr Rebholz further added, “While you don’t have to give up foods derived from animals completely, our study does suggest that eating a larger proportion of plant-based foods and a smaller proportion of animal-based foods may help reduce your risk of having a heart attack, stroke or other type of cardiovascular disease.”
     
    Although the study has discovered the importance sticking to a plant-based diet for a healthier heart, readers should take note that the research conducted was entirely observational and does not prove cause and effect.
     
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