To Your Health: Going nuts! (Are they worth the calories?)

To Your Health: Going nuts! (Are they worth the calories?)

Part-time Telluride local, Dr. Alan Safdi, is a world-renowned internist and gastroenterologist with encyclopedic knowledge of mind-body wellness and preventative medicine. He posts regularly on Telluride Inside… and Out under the banner of “To Your Health.” Dr. Alan’s blogs feature the most current information in his fields: health, wellness and longevity.

Links to Dr. Alan’s other podcasts and narratives on COVID-19 and more are here.

For this week, Dr. Alan goes nuts. Is their bang for the buck worth the calories?

Dr. Alan’s podcast about nuts is here.

We have often been told to avoid nuts because of their high fat content, but it turns out they may be some of the healthiest ways to get a lot of beneficial compounds.

We are about to look at the results of a fascinating study about peanut butter – but first a little background on nuts. in general.

Tree nuts like almonds, pecans, and walnuts are especially prized for their rich cargo of vitamins, minerals, and mono- and poly-unsaturated fats. Nuts boast a favorable nutritional profile, which offers cardiovascular and metabolic benefits. This includes unsaturated fatty acids, proteins, fiber, phytochemicals, and antioxidant compounds. Nuts also contain vitamins, like vitamin E and folate, and minerals, including calcium, potassium, and magnesium.

Researchers involved in the 2020 Journal of the American Heart Association study noted that these elements improve several cardio-protective factors like blood lipid levels, endothelium function, systemic inflammation, oxidative stress, and insulin sensitivity. Other studies have found that a daily serving of nuts can reduce total cholesterol concentration and low‐density lipoprotein cholesterol concentration, as well as triglyceride levels in certain participants.

The very humble peanut also has significant benefits without the costs of some of the tree nuts.

Eating nuts is associated, as indicated above, with plenty of health benefits. Those include increased cognitive function to protect from Alzheimer’s, as well as keeping your heart healthy. People who eat a lot of nuts might have a lower risk of mortality and developing chronic diseases, including respiratory disease, neurodegenerative disease, diabetes, cancer, and heart disease.

In large studies those who regularly ate peanuts and other nuts were substantially less likely to have died of any cause, particularly heart disease. Typically, whenever we eat something, it causes the arteries to get a little bit stiffer during the post–meal period, but we have shown that if you eat peanuts with your meal, this can help prevent the stiffening response. Eating peanuts can keep the cells that line the arteries healthy, helping them stay more elastic. Research showed that when peanuts are eaten with a meal the typical post–meal increase of triglycerides – a type of fat found in the bloodstream – is blunted. After a meal, triglycerides increase and this typically decreases the dilation of the arteries, but the peanuts prevent that big increase after the meal.

Nut consumption has been associated with decreased risk of colorectal, endometrial, lung, and pancreatic cancers. Polyphenols, fiber, vitamins, and minerals in nuts may confer this observed protective effect. Now we have the first prospective study to evaluate the effect of nut consumption on esophageal and gastric (stomach) cancers. The findings demonstrated an inverse relationship of both nut and peanut butter consumption to the risk of stomach adenocarcinoma (cancer) among older American adults. Unfortunately it did not decrease esophageal cancer in this study. Larger studies are needed.

One drawback to nuts is that they’re high in calories, so it’s important to limit portions. Choosing nuts instead of a less healthy snack may just help you stick to a heart-healthy diet. Contrary to expectations, epidemiological studies and clinical trials suggest that regular nut consumption is unlikely to contribute to obesity and may even help in weight loss while following a healthy diet.

Dr. Alan Safdi:

Dr. Alan Safdi is board-certified in Internal Medicine and in Gastroenterology and is a Fellow of the American College of Gastroenterology. A proven leader in the healthcare arena, he has been featured on the national program, “Medical Crossfire” and authored or co-authored numerous medical articles and abstracts.

Safdi, a long-time Telluride local, has been involved in grant-based and clinical research for four decades. He is passionate about disease prevention and wellness, not just fixing what has gone wrong.

Dr. Alan is an international lecturer on the subjects of wellness, nutrition and gastroenterology.

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