The People's Perspective on Medicine

Will Nuts Protect You from Afib?

People who munch a serving of nuts at least three times a week are less likely to develop atrial fibrillation. Could nuts protect you from Afib?

Nut lovers are less prone to the heart rhythm abnormality known as atrial fibrillation. In this condition, the upper chambers of the heart don’t pump blood rhythmically and efficiently. As a result, blood may puddle and clot, which increases the risk of a clot traveling to blood vessels in the brain. Doctors may treat Afib with anticoagulant drugs to prevent clotting. Could eating nuts protect you from Afib?

Do Nuts Protect You from Heart Rhythm Disturbances?

A study of more than 60,000 Swedish adults shows that a diet that includes several servings of nuts a week may help prevent Afib (Larsson et al, Heart, April 16, 2018). These people were between 45 and 83 when the study started. They filled out detailed questionnaires and then the investigators tracked their cardiovascular health for the next 17 years.

Nut Eaters Live Better:

People who ate nuts more often also tended to have healthier lifestyles overall, so the scientists corrected for those potentially confounding characteristics. After statistical adjustment, the data show that people who eat nuts three times or more every week are 18 percent less likely to develop atrial fibrillation than those who rarely eat nuts. Consuming a serving just one to three times a month had very little impact, lowering the risk of Afib by only three percent. People who ate nuts once or twice a week were also a bit less likely to develop heart failure, but the statistical association was not as clear.

Previous Research:

This is not the first study to consider whether eating nuts could protect people from Afib. However, previous research did not show nuts protect you from atrial fibrillation. The Physicians’ Health Study looked at the dietary habits and health of more than 20,000 male doctors over many years. The investigators for this large study did not find a connection between nut consumption and the risk of atrial fibrillation (Nutrition Journal, online March 21, 2012).

Olive Oil But Not Nuts:

In the PREDIMED randomized controlled trial of the Mediterranean diet, extra-virgin olive oil proved helpful against Afib (Martinez-Gonzalez et al, Circulation, July 1, 2014). Researchers assigned more than 6,000 volunteers to eat a low-fat control diet, a Mediterranean diet with extra olive oil or a Mediterranean diet with extra nuts. Both groups eating the Mediterranean diet got health benefits. Participants who got extra-virgin olive oil in conjunction with a Mediterranean diet were almost 40 percent less likely to develop Afib during the five years of follow-up. Those eating nuts every week in addition to their vegetables, fish and other Mediterranean fare were neither more nor less susceptible to atrial fibrillation than those on the control diet.

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies. .
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What about atrial FLUTTER?

This is contrary to my experience. I have eaten nuts most of my life (cashews, English walnuts, and pecans) and have used olive oil for much of it as well, but that didn’t keep me from having a bad case of Afib for the first six decades of my life. I also eat a very healthy diet with few sweets or baked goods except for 100% whole wheat bread. We don’t eat meat from four-legged animals, and I prepare a lot of seafood and poultry.

What did help was the addition of the following supplements: magnesium with potassium aspartate, arginine, taurine, and carnitine. Those supplements caused me to go from 10 missed heartbeats a minute to 1 skipped heartbeat every few minutes. Some days, I don’t skip any heartbeats at all.

This article doesn’t say what kind of nuts might protect people from A-fib. The picture shows pistachios, but do other types of nuts have the same effect? If someone already has A-fib, might eating nuts (as mentioned in the article) help?

Good questions, Andy S. I have a-fib but I could eat more nuts if I knew how many more. And what kind. Cardiologists are not much help on this.

What is a serving of nuts?

My conclusion from the last paragraph is that nuts are beneficial, and EVOO is, too, so they probably are nutritionally similar. And, there is probably a limit to their value, ie, above a certain quantity, the benefit doesn’t increase.

What is missing is what is a “portion”? It doesn’t help for me to know that I should eat nuts 3x/week if I don’t know whether that means 2 nuts or 2 oz of nuts each time. Does it make any difference what kind of nuts? I eat almonds everyday (for digestive calming), but I don’t know whether I should eat twice as many, or maybe I should add some other nuts, or maybe I’m just fine.

This is just one of the reasons “Good Dental Health” is important, and yet the medical and dental professions just will not work together, nor “Insurance Co.”

It would be helpful if, when you said eat a handful of nuts 3 or more times a week (or similar statements), you gave some indication of the number (or ounces) of nuts and the specific kinds of nuts (possibly most to least effective) or to vary or otherwise mix them.shirl

Do we assume this means tree nuts only or might peanuts help, too?

I am 76 years old, had mitral valve replaced 5 years ago and then developed atrial fibrillation. I have been on digoxin and warfarin almost continuously since then (briefly discontinued digoxin but after 6 days had a-fib and went to ER.) Never dc’d digoxin again but did have another episode of a-fib, all in first six months post-surgery. I eat nuts, usually pistachios and walnuts, daily. No episodes of a-fib have occurred in at least 3 years.

I now take 40 mgs Valsartin daily for the past year. I am active, going to gym 3x weekly and eat a healthy diet, probably more greens than most who are taking warfarin and wonder if at some point we will be able to use food to keep our numbers in range. I do sometimes get out of balance with the warfarin but always am aware that it has occurred, always because of too much or too little Vitamin K.

So a diet using olive oil, lots of fish and vegetables plus a handful of nuts 3x weekly is the way to go. Sounds good to me. But I don’t know about the low-fat part myself, since I have been reading lots in the last year or so that low fat was replaced by high sugar, to give the food some taste, and since then people’s weight has really gone up which is not a good thing. Type 2 Diabetes has skyrocketed. Overweight people of all ages seems to be the norm now. All that fat around the heart is scary.

I thought nuts were fattening. I don’t eat many nuts, just for that reason. I do love peanuts, though.

Great news about Afib, nuts, and olive oil. However, what are the best “natural” remedies in controlling Afib once diagnosed?
Thank you.

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