Dr. Christine Albert, and colleagues at Harvard Medical School looked at the diets of 22,000 doctors who have been taking part in a long-term study of health.

Those who ate the most nuts had a lower risk of dying from heart disease, she told a meeting of the American Heart Association in Dallas on November 9, 1998.

She noted that nuts contain omega-three fatty acids - in particular an acid known as alpha-linolenic acid. Canola oil, soybean oil -- both used widely in salad dressings -- and flax seed and flax oil also contain alpha-linolenic acid.

It may prevent a heart arrhythmia called ventricular fibrillation that can cause sudden death, Albert told reporters.

Albert did not ask the doctors what kind of nuts they ate or how many and pointed out that nuts can also be high in unhealthy saturated fats. But the numbers also clearly showed that the doctors who ate the most nuts had the lowest heart death rates.

The November, 1998, issue of the Mayo Clinic Health Letter included an article about nuts: "Nut-trition basics for a healthful diet."

The article stated: "When you think about eating nuts, what comes to mind first? You probably think they're fattening.

"And you"re right, they are high in fat and calories. Nuts can be fattening if you eat too many or if you add them to your diet rather than substitute them for something else.

"But eaten in moderation, nuts can be part of a healthful diet. Not only are they flavorful,. but ounce for ounce nuts are full of nutrients."

The article went on to describe nuts as nutrient-dense -- a lot of nutrients for their calories. Nuts are also rich in different plant compounds. Flavonoids, for instance, are found in all nuts. These antioxidants help reduce the formation of substances in the body that may contribute to cancer and cardiovascular disease.

Some nuts are good sources of thiamin, niacin, phosphorus, zinc and folate, and some are excellent sources of selenium, copper, magnesium and vitamin E. (Editor's note: pecans contain every one of the vitamins and minerals listed here.)

Because nuts are a plant food, they are naturally cholesterol-free, the health letter pointed out.

With regard to fat, the article says that nuts have the "right kind." Most of the fat in nuts is monounsaturated and polyunsaturated. In small amounts, such fats may lower cholesterol.

In fact, several studies suggest that nuts help reduce low-density protein (LDL) cholesterol commonly referred to as bad cholesterol. A study of 31,000 vegetarians, according to the Mayo Clinic article, showed that eating two ounces of nuts more than five times a week significantly reduce the risk of death from heart attack. For men in the study, the risk of a first heart attack was delayed by about five years.

It went on to say that another study involving 40,000 postmenopausal women found that those who ate the most nuts reduced the risk of coronary heart disease by 60 percent compared to those who didn't eat nuts.

One way to incorporate nuts into the diet the article stated, is to eat them in place of other foods. Substitute nuts for meat, for example. One ounce of nuts can take the place of one ounce of meat. Nuts are considered part of the meat group because, like meat, they are relatively high in protein and fat.

For a snack, try a small handful of nuts instead of cookies or chips. Mix nuts in with cereal, add them to yogurt and sprinkle them on vegetables or fruit salads or in pasta dishes. The article warned that anyone needing to watch their salt intake should look for products with no added salt -- nuts don't come by salt naturally, it is an added feature.

USDA's Agricultural Research Service published a press release, on October 15, 1998, which reported on a study conducted by the Health Research and Studies Center Inc. in Los Altos, California.

The ARS Publication included the following:

A diet rich in leafy green and yellow-orange vegetables and fruits, whole grains, raisins and nuts supplies plenty of antioxidants -- substances that prevent and reduce oxidation in the body's cells. Oxidation in cells appears to play a role in aging and chronic diseases. When 12 female volunteers in a study switched from a typical "Western" refined-food diet to a plant-rich diet, their bodies relaxed their natural defenses by producing smaller amounts of two enzymes that protect cells against oxidative damage. Agricultural Research Service scientists collaborated on the antioxidants study at the private SPHERA foundation in Los Altos.

To compare the antioxidant power of the two diets, Leslie Klevay and Sandra Gallagher with ARS' Grand Forks, North Dakota, Human Nutrition Research Center looked at changes in the two enzymes. One, a copper-containing enzyme called superoxide dismutase, dropped by two-thirds when the women ate the plant-rich diet. A selenium-containing enzyme, gluthathione peroxidase, dropped by one-third.

For four weeks, the volunteers consumed all the white bread, pasta, pastry, snack foods, convenience foods, meats, fish, poultry, eggs and dairy their hearts desired. They limited fruits and vegetables to two servings a day, with no leafy green and yellow varieties allowed.
Then, for four weeks, the volunteers ate at least six servings daily of green and yellow fruits and vegetables. They switched to whole grain bread and ate as many other whole grains and legumes as they wanted. They also downed two tablespoons each of almonds, hazelnuts, pecans and sesame oil; a tablespoon of wheat germ oil for cooking or dressing; four and one-half ounces of raisins; one cup of ginger tea and two cups of green tea. Fried foods and refined products were forbidden.

A story about the research appears in the October, 1998, Agricultural Research magazine. The story is also online at