Harvard Researchers Find That Physicians Who Eat Nuts Reduce Their Risk of Cardiac and Sudden Death

Nov 16, 1998

The Physicians Health Study found that “as nut consumption increased, the risk of total cardiac death and sudden death decreased.” Researchers from Harvard University presented these results at the 1998 American Heart Association’s Conference in Dallas.

The eating habits of over 22,000 male physicians were recorded and the men were followed for 11 years. During this period, there were 449 cardiac deaths, of which 133 were sudden deaths, occurring within one hour of symptom onset. Researchers found an inverse relationship between nut consumption and cardiac and sudden death. The study concludes, “These data in US male physicians suggest that nut consumption is associated with a reduced risk of total and sudden cardiac death.”

The importance of eating nuts remained clear even when adjustments in the data were made for variables such as age, vigorous exertion, hypertension, cholesterol, smoking, diabetes, alcohol use, and other dietary habits.

Interestingly, only a small percentage of physicians in the study frequently consumed nuts (10% ate nuts 5 or more times a week). Yet, many studies have shown that frequent consumption of a small amount of nuts (about one ounce, or 15 whole peanuts) is most beneficial for the heart. In a group of over 34,000 people, researchers from Loma Linda University found that daily nut-eaters decreased their risk of heart disease by half and those eating peanuts and nuts one to four times a week cut their risk by one fourth. The Nurses Health Study found that women who ate more than 5 oz. of nuts and peanuts per week lowered their risk of heart disease by about a third, compared to women who rarely ate nuts.

So go ahead– treat yourself to a handful of peanuts. Your heart will thank you for it!

The Peanut Institute is a non-profit organization that supports nutrition research and develops educational programs to encourage healthful lifestyles.