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Nuts for Health ~ [Issue 0300-3]  Wellness Weekly
 Mar 23, 2000 07:37 PST 


The term "Mediterranean diet" is often used to describe the dietary
intake of the inhabitants of those countries in and around the
Mediterranean Sea. The most well known of these are the cuisines of
the French, Spanish, Italians and Greeks. In these countries, the
incidence of death due to cancer and coronary heart disease is among
the lowest in the world. Many theories have been formulated to
explain why this is so, but clearly, two very important nutrients are
part of the picture. These are olive oil and red wine. Among other
important nutrients, olive oil contains a high percentage of quality
monounsaturated fatty acids and red wine contains oligomeric
proanthocyanidins (OPCs). Recently, another factor is becoming more
well known. It is the importance in these diets of nuts.

Everyone knows nuts are relatively high in fats, but in fact, the
type of fat they contain is mostly beneficial, unsaturated fat.
Researchers at Harvard School of Public Health and other Boston-area
facilities studied the nut consumption of 86,016 nurses who
registered in the Nurses' Health Study, which began all the way back
in 1976. The results are exciting. Nurses who consumed more than five
ounces of nuts per week had one-third fewer heart attacks than those
who usually did not eat nuts. The researchers emphasized that most
nuts are high in the natural amino acid arginine, the precursor in
the body to nitric oxide (NO), which dilates blood vessels and
prevents platelets from sticking together. Most nuts are also rich in
magnesium, copper, folic acid, protein, potassium, vitamin E and
fiber - all valuable nutrients for the circulatory system.

Additionally, eating peanuts regularly was associated with a low risk
of coronary heart disease. A low-fat diet supplemented with peanuts
appreciably improved lipoprotein cholesterol profiles when compared
with a regular low-fat diet in postmenopausal women with high
cholesterol. Frequent nut intake was also associated with a reduced
risk of both fatal and non-fatal heart disease.
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