Does Eating Nuts Prevent Strokes?

In the PREDIMED study, from the Spanish ďPREvencio ́n con DIeta MEDiterranea,Ē a whopping 7,447 patients were randomized into three groups. These were folks at high risk for a heart attack, about half were obese, diabetic and most had high blood pressure and high cholesterol, but they had not yet had their first heart attack or stroke. A third were told to eat a Mediterranean diet and given a free quart of extra virgin olive oil every week. The second group were told to eat a Mediterranean diet and given a half pound of free nuts every week, and the last third were told to follow the American Heart Association guidelines and reduce their fat intake. No portion control or exercise advice was given, and they were followed for about five years. The results were published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

The first thing you do when you look at a diet intervention trial is see what the groups actually ended up eating, which can be very different from what they were told to eat. For example, the so-called low-fat group started out at 39 percent of calories from fat, and ended up getting 37 percent of calories from fat, which is high fat even compared to the Standard American Diet which comes in at 33 percent, something the researchers plainly acknowledged. In fact, the control group didnít change much at all over the years, so can be thought of as the what-if-you-donít-do-anything group, which is still an important control group to have. Though the two Mediterranean diet groups didnít get much more Mediterranean.

They were told to eat more fruits and vegetables, for example, less meat and dairy, but didnít accomplish any of those compared to control. The biggest changes recorded were, not surprisingly, in the consumption of the freebies. The group that got a free jug of extra-virgin olive oil delivered to their home every week really did start increasing their consumption, in part by replacing some of the refined olive oil they had been using, which they would continue to have to pay for. And those that got a half pound of free nuts sent to them every week for four years straight did start eating more nuts.

Basically they designed a study to test two different Mediterranean diets versus a low fat diet, but ended up studying something very different. In essence, they studied what happens when thousands of people switch from consuming about three tablespoons of olive oil a day (half virgin) to four tablespoons of all virgin, compared to thousands of people who all the sudden go from eating about a half an ounce of nuts a day to a whole ounce, compared to thousands of people who donít make much of a change at all. It may not have been what they were hoping for, but these are important research questions in and of themselves.

With no significant differences in meat and dairy intake, there were no significant differences in saturated fat or cholesterol intake, so no surprise there was no significant differences in their blood cholesterol levels, and so no difference in their subsequent number of heart attacks. In the five or so years the study ran, there were 37 heart attacks in the olive oil group, 31 in the nut group and 38 in the neither group. No significant difference. Same with dying from a heart attack or stroke or from any causeóbut, those in the olive oil and especially the nut group had significantly fewer strokes. All three groups were eating stroke-promoting diets; they all had some strokes after eating these diet for years, and so ideally weíd choose diets that can stop or reverse the disease process, but the diet with added extra virgin olive oil caused about a third fewer strokes, and adding nuts seemed to cut their stroke risk nearly in half. If this worked as well in the general population, in the U.S. alone that would mean preventing 89,000 strokes a year. Thatís would be like ten strokes an hour around the clock prevented simply by adding half an ounce of nuts to oneís daily diet.

 

In health,
Michael Greger, M.D.

PS: If you havenít yet, you can subscribe to my free videos†here†and watch my live year-in-review presentations†Uprooting the Leading Causes of Death,†More Than an Apple a Day,†From Table to Able, and†Food as Medicine.

Related
Four Nuts Once a Month
Nuts May Help Prevent Death
Nuts Donít Cause Expected Weight Gain

 

144 comments

Jeramie D
Jeramie D6 months ago

Love nuts and extra virgin olive oil

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Ingrid A
Past Member 6 months ago

Thanks for sharing

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David C
David C6 months ago

Do your best, do something nice, don't judge...thanks

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Louise R
Past Member 6 months ago

thank you

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Barbara S
Barbara S6 months ago

Thanks

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JoAnn P
JoAnn Paris6 months ago

Thank you for this very interesting article.

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Peggy B
Peggy B6 months ago

TYFS

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Sue H
Sue H6 months ago

Thanks for sharing.

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Lisa M
Lisa M6 months ago

Thanks.

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Lisa M
Lisa M6 months ago

Thanks.

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