In a large study, Swedish researchers found that eating nuts three or more times a week was associated with an 18% lower chance of having AFib. It also helped cut the odds of heart failure.
"Even a small increase in nut consumption may have large potential to lead to a reduction in incidence of atrial fibrillation and heart failure in this population," the study said.
Lead research Susanna C. Larsson, PhD, of the Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm, Sweden, said nuts are rich sources of unsaturated fatty acids, protein, fiber, minerals, vitamin E, folate, and other chemicals. Previous studies have suggested that eating nuts may have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects, and can improve blood cholesterol, help blood vessels work better, and prevent weight gain.
The researchers analyzed data from two Swedish studies in which 61,364 people had completed a questionnaire about their eating habits and were followed for 17 years.
People who ate nuts tended to be better educated and to have healthier lifestyles than those who didn't. They were less likely to smoke or to have a history of high blood pressure. They weighed less, got more exercise, drank more alcohol, and ate more fruits and vegetables.
Each extra portion of nuts eaten during the week was associated with a 4% decrease in the chance of having AFib.
Researchers also saw less heart failure with people who ate moderate (but not high) amounts of nuts. The researchers say this might be related to higher weight gain with more consumption.
The researchers say they cannot rule out that the links are due to things they didn’t account for, such as income and occupation, because these were not known.
But they say the strength of the study lies in its large size and the large number of heart disease cases reported.