Adding Brazil nuts to diet helps the heart and aids weight loss, study finds

By Liza Laws

- Last updated on GMT

© Getty Images
© Getty Images

Related tags Endothelial dysfunction Brazil nuts Obesity cardiovascular health

Eating Brazil and cashew nuts can help improve body composition and endothelial health in women at risk of heart disease, a study has found.

There have been many studies about the effect of nuts on health, but Brazil and cashew are still the least investigated. This randomised controlled trial by researchers from the department of nutrition and health at Brazil University evaluated the effect of the nuts within an energy-restricted diet on body weight, body composition, cardiometabolic markers and endothelial function in cardiometabolic risk women.

A randomised trial

A total of 40 women were randomly allocated to two groups – one an energy-restricted diet without nuts and the other was with the inclusion of 45g of nuts – 15g of Brazil and 30g of cashew nuts. At the beginning and final intervention body composition, anthropometry and blood pressure were measured. Fasting blood sampling was taken to assess the lipid profile, glucose homeostasis and endothelial function markers.

The study found that during the trial, those on the diet with the nuts included saw improvements in body composition and the reduction of Intercellular adhesion molecule (ICAM-1) a transmembrane adhesion molecule positively correlated with abdominal fat deposition. Researchers believe this suggests an improvement of endothelial inflammation and enhanced plasma selenium concentrations in women at risk of heart problems. The study reports that eating these nuts can potentially improve dietary strategies for obesity control and cardiovascular disease prevention.

At the beginning of the study, there were no significant differences between the groups but after the eight-week dietary intervention, body weight, BMI, waist and hip circumference, waist to height and waist to hip showed significant reductions compared with the baseline but no difference between groups. In contrast, the nut group showed signs of body composition improvement compared to the control group.

Study observations

At the end of the study, the plasma selenium concentration increased in the nut taking group as well as a reduction in total body fat parallel to improvement of lean mass percentage in the nut taking group. Lipid and glucose profile markers, apolipoproteins, and blood pressure remained unchanged after the intervention.

The researchers said: “Thus, the addition of Brazil and cashew nuts to an energy-restricted diet can be a healthy strategy to improve body composition, selenium status, and endothelial inflammation in cardiometabolic risk women.”​ 

Endothelial dysfunction can increase blood pressure, particularly after menopause and it can worsen arterial stiffness, which is involved in both the development and progression of both hypertension and cardiovascular disease.  Inflammatory signals can trigger the expression of vascular cell adhesion molecule 1 (VCAM-1) on endothelial cells. 

The researchers noted that interestingly, VCAM-1 significantly reduced after the nut consumption compared to the control group.

They believe that adding Brazil and cashew nuts to a controlled diet significantly promoted a reduction in body fat percentage parallel to a rise in lean mass and free fat mass (kg and percentage). They added that for body regions, truncal lean mass and free fat mass increased in the nut group compared to the control group. However, the android fat mass was higher in the group that took nuts than in the control group. Regarding the cardiometabolic risk factors, both groups showed a similar reduction in total cholesterol, and systolic blood pressure. 

Source: Cambridge University Press

Published online ahead of print:

'Brazil and cashew nuts intake improve body composition and endothelial health in women at cardiometabolic risk (Brazilian Nuts Study): a randomized controlled trial'

Authors: Ana Paula Silva Caldas et al





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