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Positive cardiovascular effects of a handful of Brazil nuts last for a month

Eat a handful of Brazil nuts and your cholesterol balance will stay much better for a month. The concentration of the bad cholesterol LDL will decrease and the concentration of the good cholesterol HDL will increase. Brazilian chemists at the Federal University of Santa Maria have written about it in the Journal of Nutrition and Metabolism.

The researchers gave 10 healthy participants on 4 different occasions 0, 5, 20 or 50 g Brazil nuts. Because a Brazil nut weighs about 5 grams, that corresponds to 0, 1, 4 or 10 Brazil nuts. After each intake the researchers monitored the participants' blood for the next 30 days. During this period the participants all followed the same diet.

Why Brazil nuts?
Brazil nuts are a good source of selenium, a mineral of which, if like most Europeans you live in an area where there is little selenium in the soil, it is difficult to get the 55 micrograms that nutritionists say we should consume daily. This is not the case if you eat Brazil nuts. [Am J Clin Nutr. 2008 Feb;87(2):379-84.]

Positive cardiovascular effects of a handful of Brazil nuts last for a month

Just two of them are enough to cover your daily selenium requirement. In addition, your body absorbs the selenium in Brazil nuts better than the selenium in supplements containing L-seleno-methionine.

The body needs selenium for enzymes such as glutathione peroxidases and thioredoxin reductases to work properly. Glutathione peroxidases play a role in detoxification processes. As a result, a relatively high selenium intake may reduce the likelihood of developing some forms of cancer. But the role of glutathione peroxidases is so diverse that a shortage of selenium can have many other negative health effects too.

However, too much selenium is not healthy either. A 2007 trial, in which participants took 200 mg selenium every day, showed that supplementation caused a significant increase in the likelihood of developing type-2 diabetes. [Ann Intern Med. 2007 Aug 21;147(4):217-23.] Nutritionists recommend taking no more than 300 micrograms selenium daily.

After consuming Brazil nuts the concentration of selenium in the blood increased. The more Brazil nuts the participants ate, the greater the rise.

Positive cardiovascular effects of a handful of Brazil nuts last for a month

More noticeable was the effect of the 20 and 50-gram doses of Brazil nuts on the participants' cholesterol balance. These reduced the levels of LDL [bad cholesterol] and increased the concentration of HDL [good cholesterol]. Both these positive effects were still visible a month after the participants had eaten the nuts.

Positive cardiovascular effects of a handful of Brazil nuts last for a month

The Brazil nuts that the researchers used provided 31 micrograms selenium per gram. That meant that the highest doses provided more selenium in one go than the 300-microgram maximum recommended by nutritionists. This dose didn't have any negative health effects, however, the Brazilians discovered when they examined the participants' blood for AST, ALT, alkaline phosphatase, gamma-GT and CRP.

"The results obtained here suggest that the consumption of a single serving of Brazil nut is sufficient to improve the lipid profile of healthy volunteers (lowered LDL-c and raised HDL-c), without producing hepatic and renal toxicity," the researchers wrote. "However, further investigation is needed to validate the beneficial effects of Brazil nut because here we have used a small number of subjects."

"In addition, it is also important to evaluate the isolated and combined effects of selenium and/or unsaturated fatty acids found in Brazil nuts on atherogenic parameters in order to better understand their mechanistic role in modulating cardiac indexes in healthy and dyslipidemic subjects. In addition, the evaluation of the effects of chronic consumption of Brazil nuts and the inclusion of dyslipidemic patients are paths to be followed."

J Nutr Metab. 2013;2013:653185.

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