Nuts and your health: Cracking old myths

Few would accuse Harvard's researchers of being health nuts, but they may actually deserve that designation. They have teamed up to show that nuts really are healthy, especially for men at risk for heart disease.

Harvard men — and women

Researchers from Harvard Medical School and the Harvard School of Public Health have examined how eating nuts affects the cardiovascular health of men and women. One study evaluated 21,545 men enrolled in the Physicians' Health Study. All the participants were between the ages of 40 and 84 when the study began, and none had been diagnosed with heart disease or high blood pressure. Researchers began tracking the subjects in the early 1980s, and they have continued to evaluate many of the men through more than two decades. The nut study, though, is based on a much shorter (12-month) observation period. Over the course of that year, men who ate nuts two or more times a week enjoyed a 47% lower risk of sudden cardiac death and a 30% lower risk of dying from all types of coronary artery disease than men who eschewed nuts.

It's an important finding, but it has two limitations. First, the observation period was relatively short. Second, the men who ate the most nuts also had slightly better health habits (fewer smokers, more exercisers) and better blood pressures, though they did have more diabetes.

To continue reading this article, you must login.
  • Research health conditions
  • Check your symptoms
  • Prepare for a doctor's visit or test
  • Find the best treatments and procedures for you
  • Explore options for better nutrition and exercise
Learn more about the many benefits and features of joining Harvard Health Online »