Regularly eating a handful of nuts, including peanuts, could keep your heart healthy, says a major study spanning 10 countries. But scientists warn that it would not make up for an unhealthy lifestyle.
Just two portions of nuts a week cuts the risk of dying from a heart attack by 11 percent, said British researcher Elio Riboli, who along with others studied almost 400,000 people from 10 countries, including 90,000 from Norfolk and Oxford.
The participants were asked to complete food questionnaires, reported the online edition of Daily Mail.
The participants gave blood samples in the early 1990s, which were followed up to establish links between dietary habits and disease.
In the latest analysis, nut consumption was studied in 1,200 people who died of a heart attack and compared with people who are still alive.
The study found that a small amount of nuts in the diet could help beat heart disease.
A classic aperitif accompanied by a dish of nuts at least twice a week would be an ideal combination, Riboli said.
The results were presented this week at the World Congress of Cardiology in Barcelona. Riboli, professor of cancer epidemiology at Imperial College, London, said all nuts were counted in the assessment, including peanuts, which are actually legumes.
Earlier studies have found eating nuts was linked to a lower risk of bowel cancer. Studies have also shown that nuts can lower cholesterol, reduce inflammation and improve the functioning of arteries.
"The important thing is that very modest consumption is associated with protection. A small plate of nuts with a glass of wine would be a healthy amount," Riboli said.
He believes the benefits come from the high concentration of Omega-3 fatty acids in nuts and says that unsalted nuts are best.
He, however, warned that there was no point sitting in front of the TV, being obese and having high blood pressure, and expecting a handful of nuts to protect you from heart disease.