Brazil Nuts for Heart Health

Did You Know…the least popular nut can protect your heart health, according to recent research?

Historically the Brazil nut has been the least popular of the tree nuts.  As a point of comparison, the United States imported 151 times more pistachios than Brazil nuts in 2013.  Due to recent research showing the shocking benefits the nuts have on heart disease risk factors, the expected demand shot five times higher!

A recent study showed eating just one serving of Brazil nuts improves cholesterol levels.  Based on multiple blood samples, the researchers found Brazil nuts significantly decreased LDL cholesterol levels and increased HDL cholesterol levels.  Perhaps most impressive of all was the finding that eating just four Brazil nuts may beneficially affect cholesterol levels for up to a month.

Only One Day Needed to Lower Cholesterol Level 

For the study, ten healthy men and women ate 0, 1, 4, or 8 Brazil nuts on four different testing days.  After drawing blood samples over the course of two days, researchers found both the 4 and 8 nut servings positively impacted cholesterol levels.  Eating just 4 Brazil nuts almost immediately improved cholesterol levels; a mere nine hours after eating the nuts, LDL cholesterol levels dropped by nearly 20 points.  Statin drugs, by contrast, typically take four days to produce improvements.

The researchers retested participants’ cholesterol levels after 5 and 30 days had passed. These tests confirmed the beneficial effect of the Brazil nuts.  Up to one month later, without the benefit of any additional servings of Brazil nuts, LDL cholesterol levels remained lower than at the outset.

A separate study conducted by Brazilian scientists in 2011 turned up similar results.  The scientists behind the study were specifically interested in the effect of Brazil nuts on the health of obese teenage girls at risk of developing heart disease.  Over the 16-week study, 17 girls ingested either a lactose placebo powder or between 3 to 5 Brazil nuts each day.

At the study’s conclusion, the participants who ate Brazil nuts had lower total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol levels than they had when the study began.  Levels of oxidized LDL cholesterol—which is even more harmful to heart health—also decreased for the group who ate Brazil nuts.

Experts theorized that the selenium in Brazil nuts might have fortified antioxidant defenses, leading to an improvement in oxidized LDL cholesterol levels.

When Patience Won’t Be Rewarded

As impressive as these results are, both studies were carried out with small groups of participants.  When medical literature highlights findings that seem almost “too-good-to-be-true,” it’s normal to want to see more evidence.  In some instances, however, experts say it may be more prudent to reverse the burden of proof.

When a study touts the rewards of a lifestyle choice that is safe… simple… and affordable (eating four brazils nuts each month, for example), there’s really no reason to wait for further research.  You could say that until proven otherwise, it would be nuts not to eat Brazil nuts!