Wednesday, November 27, 2013

It’s A Nutty Result

It’s A Nutty Result

There was an interesting article in last month’s New England Journal of Medicine titled - [Association of Nut Consumption with Total and Cause-Specific Mortality, N Engl J Med 2013] which talked about how eating nuts- walnuts, peanuts and hazelnuts for more than 5 times a week reduced death rates by 20%. This lowering of death rate is achieved by lowering the risk of heart disease and lowered cholesterol levels according to the study.  As the study says - nuts are nutrient dense foods rich in fiber, vitamins, minerals and anti-oxidants and all kinds of goodies. So are nuts the new miracle foods? Should we all rush out to buy nuts and start eating them?

Just hold on a bit and before we start stocking kilos of nuts at home, let’s take a closer look at the entire study again. With the current trend of sharing breaking news on social media most people just read the title and overall conclusions of any scientific study published (hyped) in the popular media - rarely do people take the time to read the entire article in full and try to understand the pitfalls in the study design or the subjects chosen. And that’s why when we take this entire study in totality we find a few queer aspects in it which might confuse these stupendous results.

First of all, the people who participated in this study (eating nuts regularly) were all nurses and doctors- so we can assume they would have taken care of their health in other ways too- like cutting out junk food and exercising regularly and eating lots of vitamins daily and so the reductions in heart problems and cholesterol might not be entirely due to the effects of the nuts, you get what I am saying? And also this study has specifically excluded those who smoke and those who are overweight which means that any results which talk about reducing heart attack risks is a bit biased towards those who are already fit and healthy and taking good care of themselves.

I mean, when you take a naturally healthy person and then say they have reduced risk of heart attacks because they ate nuts, put that way it’s not a very jaw dropping result is it? On the other hand show me a morbidly obese person who never exercises in his life but sits home watching TV and smokes 40 cigarettes a day and then tell me that eating nuts reduces his cholesterol and saves him from heart attacks and I promise to stop prescribing medicines henceforth and start writing 2walnuts/2almonds twice a day for 5 days as my prescription.

So in conclusion nuts are nutritious, beneficial and probably prevent heart attacks. But so does exercise and weight loss. And if you prefer not to go nutty do eat nuts but also try to live a stress/tension free life. Save your heart- ‘cos you only got one. Okies?

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