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HANDFUL OF NUTS A DAY MAY KEEP THE DOCTOR AWAY

SHARE HANDFUL OF NUTS A DAY MAY KEEP THE DOCTOR AWAY

A handful of nuts a day may keep the heart attack away, according to a group of California researchers.

A six-year study of diet and fatal coronary heart disease among 34,000 California members of the Seventh-day Adventist Church found that nuts were the only food item listed with a statistically significant protection against heart attack death."Compared to a person who never ate nuts, a person who ate them at least once a day had only 47 percent of the risk" of fatal heart attack, said Dr. Gary E. Fraser, co-author of a study presented Tuesday at the 2nd International Conference of Preventive Cardiology.

"Making this even more significant is that a year ago we looked at non-fatal (heart attacks) and got findings that were extremely similar," said Fraser. "Nuts seem to reduce the risk of both fatal and non-fatal heart disease."

The researcher cautioned that the study is from only one population group and "should be interpreted as an interesting but still somewhat preliminary finding" until other studies are done.

Fraser said the data was collected through questionnaires mailed between 1976 and 1982. In a follow-up study, the researchers found there had been 260 fatal heart attacks among those surveyed earlier. The scientists then compared answers on the dietary questionnaires to determine what foods, if any, tended to suggest protection against heart disease.

"Significant protective relationships were seen with consumption of whole wheat bread, nuts and citrus fruits," the report said. But in a further refinement of the data, Fraser said nuts appeared to be the major common food that protected against heart disease.

"It was fairly consistent across the sexes, by the age groups, by smokers and nonsmokers, and all of the major risk factors," he said.

A re-survey of part of the study group determined that peanuts were the most commonly consumed nut - chosen by about 60 percent of those questioned.

Fraser said the questions dealt only with the frequency of nut consumption and found that the more often nuts were eaten, the greater the protection. Those who ate nuts at least once a day did best.

As to quantity, Fraser said "a handful of nuts, or something like that" was probably typical.

Fraser said it is not now known what in nuts can provide protection from heart attack, but he speculated that it could be the types of vegetable fats.