Additional Adventist Health Study findings validated the relationship between eating nuts and whole wheat bread and experiencing a reduced risk for coronary heart disease (CHD). These findings were published in a research article by Dr. Fraser and his colleagues to the Archives of Internal Medicine in 1992. The findings attracted substantial media attention.
The most outstanding findings of that research showed that nut consumption reduced the risk of both fatal and nonfatal CHD. Again, researchers adjusted the data for differences in age, sex, smoking habits, exercise, relative weight and hypertension. Despite this, the protective qualities of nuts remained statistically significant and essentially unchanged in magnitude.
Data on Nut Consumption
The research reported that eating nuts one to four times a week:
- Lowered the risk of nonfatal heart attack by 74 percent.
- Lowered the risk of fatal coronary heart disease by 73 percent.
It also reported that eating nuts more than five times a week:
- Lowered heart risks by 47 percent among those under age 80.
- Lowered heart risks by 45 percent among those over age 80.
- Lowered the risk of coronary heart disease by 54 percent despite smoking history.
- Lowered the risk of coronary heart disease to 40 percent among those with normal blood pressure.
- Lowered the risk to 44 percent among nut-eating vegetarians.
- Lowered the risk to 39 percent among those who exercise frequently.
Using the body-mass index (BMI) as an index of obesity, those eating nuts more than five times a week with a BMI greater than or equal to 23.9 (above average obesity) had 46 percent the risk of coronary heart disease. Those with a BMI of less than 24 had a risk of 53 percent when compared to low nut consumers of similar obesity. These associations are consistent and of sizeable magnitude, implying a probable causal relationship.
- Possible mechanisms for this finding have been suggested, including the:
- Relationship between the high poly- and mono-unsaturated fat content of nuts and the lowering of blood cholesterol
- Antioxidant properties of the high Vitamin E content of nuts
- High arginine content in nuts (an amino acid precursor of nitric oxide), which leads to relaxation of the arterial walls.
All three of these would tend to reduce plaque in the arteries (atherosclerosis). The study's strengths lie in the size of the cohort group, extensive data gathered on each subject, inclusion of both men and women from a wide range of ages, and wide range of nut consumption among Adventists.