Healthier Hearts from a Handful of Nuts
Past studies have shown that a Mediterranean diet can reduce out risk of developing a wide array of diseases that lead to shortened lifespan by reducing our risk of metabolic syndrome. Metabolic syndrome is a cluster of factors that through a series of complex hormonal releases, contributes to diabetes, heart disease, and insulin resistance. Components of metabolic syndrome include high blood pressure, insulin resistance, high cholesterol and triglyceride levels, abdominal obesity and elevated inflammatory markers in the body (CRP levels). New research shows that incorporating a handful of nuts into our daily diet can significantly promote healthier hearts.
The newest study, published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, studied the effects of the Mediterranean diet, versus a low fat diet over one year. The study group included 1224 older subjects who were at high risk for heart disease. The researchers used the National Cholesterol Education Program Adult Treatment Panel III criteria to assess the results of diet and lifestyle of the participants.
The study participants received education about the Mediterranean diet on a quarterly basis. The group was divided into those who received 1 liter of virgin olive oil each week, or 30 grams (one ounce) daily of mixed nuts, combined with periodic education about a low fat diet for a healthier heart. No one in the group changed their exercise habits, and all ate to their satisfaction. At the beginning of the study, 61.4% of the group possessed indicators of metabolic syndrome. After one year, the prevalence of metabolic syndrome was reduced by 6.7% in those who ate a Mediterranean diet plus virgin olive oil, increasing to 13.7% when nuts were added.
A low fat diet alone reduced metabolic syndrome by 2%, showing clearly that a handful of nuts daily can lead to a healthier heart by preventing metabolic syndrome.
Implications of Metabolic Syndrome on Heart Health
Preventing metabolic syndrome is important to maintain a healthier heart. High blood pressure, high cholesterol and triglyceride levels, and insulin resistance promote inflammation in the lining of the blood vessels, or endothelium that can set us up for the formation of blood clots leading to heart attack. When we become insulin resistant, it is difficult to lose weight, causing a vicious cycle that further affects our risk of heart disease and diabetes.
Consuming foods from a Mediterranean diet, including a handful of nuts each day, can ensure a healthier heart by controlling the effects of metabolic syndrome.