How Do Nuts Prevent Sudden Cardiac Death?

How Do Nuts Prevent Sudden Cardiac Death?
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Most men and women who die of heart disease, our #1 killer, die suddenly without any known history of heart problems. Nut consumption, however, has been associated specifically with decreased risk of sudden cardiac death, which may be due to magnesium, a mineral found predominantly in whole grains, greens, beans, nuts, and seeds.

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In a language of certainty rarely seen in the medical literature, “All studies conclude that nuts can play an important role as part of a healthy diet in order to minimize cardiovascular risk and obtain multiple health benefits.”

What could possibly be in nuts that appears to so powerfully cut heart disease risk by about a third, on average? The clue is that the “reduction in total [coronary heart disease] death associated with nut consumption was due primarily to a decrease in sudden cardiac death.”

To review, more than half of all heart disease deaths are sudden, and “most patients who suffer sudden cardiac death…are not [considered] at high risk on the basis of established criteria, and up to 55% of men and 68% of women have no clinically recognized heart disease before sudden death.”

Of course, they obviously had rampant heart disease; it just wasn’t recognized until they were lying in the morgue. So, if there was ever a case to be made for primary prevention—starting to eat healthier right now, tonight, before symptoms arise—sudden cardiac death is it, since our first symptom is often our last. Okay; so, how do we do it?

Our story begins 43 years ago, with a fascinating paper in the New England Journal [of Medicine]: “Sudden Death and Ischemic Heart Disease: Correlation with Hardness of the Local Water Supply.” There appeared to be “an increased susceptibility to lethal arrhythmias [fatal heart rhythms] among residents of soft-water areas.” So, maybe one of the minerals found in hard water is protective; but which one? Well, let’s cut some hearts open, and find out.

“Differences in metal content of the heart muscle in death from ischemic heart disease.” On autopsy, the hearts of sudden cardiac death victims had significantly lower magnesium concentrations compared to people that just got hit by a bus or something. So, hmm, maybe there’s a connection? But it wasn’t put it to the test, until recently.

Why the decades long delay in testing a potentially cheap, simple way to help prevent our #1 killer? That’s exactly the problem: cheap. Where’s magnesium found? Whole grains, greens, beans, nuts, and seeds. Who’s going to fund the study? The pumpkin seed lobby? Big Spinach?

If magnesium was found to be protective, who’s going to profit? Who’s going to benefit? Other, of course, than the hundreds of thousands of Americans that keel over dead every year, without even being able to say goodbye to their families.

I’ll cover the new magnesium studies tomorrow.

To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video. This is just an approximation of the audio contributed by Serena.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

In a language of certainty rarely seen in the medical literature, “All studies conclude that nuts can play an important role as part of a healthy diet in order to minimize cardiovascular risk and obtain multiple health benefits.”

What could possibly be in nuts that appears to so powerfully cut heart disease risk by about a third, on average? The clue is that the “reduction in total [coronary heart disease] death associated with nut consumption was due primarily to a decrease in sudden cardiac death.”

To review, more than half of all heart disease deaths are sudden, and “most patients who suffer sudden cardiac death…are not [considered] at high risk on the basis of established criteria, and up to 55% of men and 68% of women have no clinically recognized heart disease before sudden death.”

Of course, they obviously had rampant heart disease; it just wasn’t recognized until they were lying in the morgue. So, if there was ever a case to be made for primary prevention—starting to eat healthier right now, tonight, before symptoms arise—sudden cardiac death is it, since our first symptom is often our last. Okay; so, how do we do it?

Our story begins 43 years ago, with a fascinating paper in the New England Journal [of Medicine]: “Sudden Death and Ischemic Heart Disease: Correlation with Hardness of the Local Water Supply.” There appeared to be “an increased susceptibility to lethal arrhythmias [fatal heart rhythms] among residents of soft-water areas.” So, maybe one of the minerals found in hard water is protective; but which one? Well, let’s cut some hearts open, and find out.

“Differences in metal content of the heart muscle in death from ischemic heart disease.” On autopsy, the hearts of sudden cardiac death victims had significantly lower magnesium concentrations compared to people that just got hit by a bus or something. So, hmm, maybe there’s a connection? But it wasn’t put it to the test, until recently.

Why the decades long delay in testing a potentially cheap, simple way to help prevent our #1 killer? That’s exactly the problem: cheap. Where’s magnesium found? Whole grains, greens, beans, nuts, and seeds. Who’s going to fund the study? The pumpkin seed lobby? Big Spinach?

If magnesium was found to be protective, who’s going to profit? Who’s going to benefit? Other, of course, than the hundreds of thousands of Americans that keel over dead every year, without even being able to say goodbye to their families.

I’ll cover the new magnesium studies tomorrow.

To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video. This is just an approximation of the audio contributed by Serena.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Doctor's Note

In Mineral of the Year–Magnesium, I review the new studies that test this exciting hypothesis. For more on preventing sudden cardiac death, see Our Number One Killer Can Be StoppedChina Study on Sudden Cardiac Death; and Boosting Heart Nerve Control. Also, be sure to check out my other videos on nuts, including Eating Healthy on the CheapAtkins Diet: Trouble Keeping It UpPlant Protein PreferableDiverticulosis & NutsThe Best Nut; and Halving Heart Attack Risk

And check out my associated blog post: Magnesium-Rich Foods to Prevent Sudden Death.

If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my videos for free by clicking here.

 

19 responses to “How Do Nuts Prevent Sudden Cardiac Death?

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  1. Tomorrow’s NutritionFacts.org video-of-the-day, Mineral of the Year – Magnesium, reviews the new studies that test this exciting hypothesis. For more on preventing sudden cardiac death, see Our Number One Killer Can Be Stopped, China Study on Sudden Cardiac Death, and Boosting Heart Nerve Control. I have 38 other videos that cover nuts , including Eating Healthy on the Cheap, Atkins Diet: Trouble Keeping It Up, Plant Protein Preferable, Diverticulosis & Nuts, The Best Nut, and Halving Heart Attack Risk. There are also hundreds of videos on more than a thousand other topics.




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      1. It almost makes it sound like supplementation would be prudent for Mag. Heck it was a supplement in the water before it was softened. Maybe that’s how people got a lot of their calcium too before milk was pushed so hard.




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  2. So, Dr. Greger, just how much money is needed for a needed for an average study?  Whenever I hear this issue, I wonder how much would we need to collect and what is the most pressing need?  Perhaps we could call ourselves “The Pumpkin Seed Lobby”.  That would wake up some folks.




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      1. How ’bout Pumpkin Heads and no Meat Heads need apply.

        Remember Meathead (Rob Reiner Actor Director) from All In The Family?  Interestingly I think he was vegetarian in the TV show.

        Interesting quip I just found from the show: Archie was always insulting his own family his wife Edith, his daughter Gloria and his son-in-law Michael (Meathead) Stivic. Mike wanted to be a vegetarian, Archie’s response to him was “Man was put on this earth to eat meat…The Bible says so dumbbell…I mean look it up will ya? All them old bible peoples, they was always eating meet; soon as they found out eating apples was wrong…It’s true, on special occasions: goats and lambs. Who the hell ever hear of sacrificing a head of lettuce? You?”




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        1.  There is actually an episode where it’s Archie who stands up for animals…I think it may be regarding, fur, I’m not sure which episode.
           
          Mike also defends meat eating in the episode about horsemeat. I think you are talking about the show where he’s talking about his vegetarian friends? Mike was such a foodie I don’t think he wanted to go veg.

           That show was so “liberal” in its time you would think Gloria and Mike would have been at least vegetarian. Would the show be done today, I bet they’d be “tree-hugging vegans.”

          Good grief, I know way too much about All in the Family :O




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        2. Archie didn’t read his Bible very closely.  And, apparently, most Christians don’t.  (I’m a lapsed Christian.)  He should have started in the beginning, with Genesis 1:29.  Pretty clear to me what God wanted us to do.




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    1. I would love to see a section on kickstarter for funding nutrition studies. Maybe someone like Dr. Greger could some day assemble a roster of impartial scientists and poll for specific studies people want, then  put up a kickstarter and see if the most requested ones can make the estimated funding goals.




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  3. Great piece, as always Dr. Greger.  Cigarette smoking increases the risk for sudden cardiac death as well.  Perhaps we should try to convince people to stop consuming one green leafy vegetable (i.e., tobacco leaves that have been cured and put into cigarettes, along with lots of additives) with some healthier varieties, like kale and romaine lettuce!




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  4. This video makes me really really angry at the way this world is. I think we should be.  It also makes me wonder what other diseases and conditions can be prevented with a nutritious vegan diet.




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  5. Nothing new there. :) Breakfast is usually around 10 almonds (or equivalent weight in other nut) and fruit (though there are traditional breakfasts like lentil crepes from India). And each meal is barley (as a base grain, considered important by all ancient cultures, sometimes mixed w/others), beans, and vegetables (root, green leafy and colored).




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  6. I think Kellog’s could’ve cashed in with some studies, since their all bran was in the top 20 of the usda’s magnesium database. Companies like that pounce on studies showing their product could have some health bennies–especially in chd. The commercial almost writes itself.

    BTW, I wanted to thank you for all your work. I’ve kept my junk food habits since going vegan in 2005, but I’ve been integrating your healthy eating info into my diet. The Oreos are still there, but now the tea (which used to just be 2L of water) and amla powder are too.




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  7. Well said Dr. Greger, I can’t wait to see tomorrows video. I do have a question about magnesium overdose. Although the symptoms are not really severe it is said that a high diet in magnesium for individuals with special needs that have behaviors, attention deficeit issues have benefited greatly. I have a special needs son that has these issues and thought about trying to increase his magnesium levels by food and by OTC supplements, but am concerned with overdosing him. Levels are very slim, 1.4 to 1.7 in children. Are the chances of overdose easily possible or if close monitering will be fine. Just wanted your or others opinion. Thank you.

    Nursing Student Robert




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  8. it’s the best way to die, from sudden death, i want to die like that. Much worse to lose mind and still be alive, or lay in bed for 10 years with arthritis or cancer. Please more articles on how to keep mind, vision and hearing. We going die anyway, sooner or later, i just want to be healthy, doesn’t matter how long my life will be.




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