Eating nuts regularly could prevent the development of heart failure and an irregular heartbeat, research has found.
Those who consumed nuts one to two times a week had a 20% lower risk of suffering heart failure, according to a study published in journal Heart.
High nut consumption – more than three servings a week – was linked with a reduced risk of developing atrial fibrillation, which causes an irregular and often abnormally fast heartbeat.
Even a small increase in the amount of nuts included in the diet may reduce the risk of the cardiovascular diseases, the researchers said.
The study, by scientists from Sweden, monitored the cardiovascular health of 61,000 Swedish people aged 45 to 83 years old for 17 years.
Eating nuts one to three times a month was associated with a 3% lower risk of developing atrial fibrillation, while those who consumed nuts three or more times a week had an 18% reduced risk, the research found.
Atrial fibrillation can lead to dizziness and shortness of breath and affects around one million people in the UK, according to the NHS.
Moderate, but not high, weekly consumption of nuts was associated with a lower chance of suffering heart failure, the researchers said, suggesting a less consistent link.
The authors said: “Results from this large prospective study suggest that nut consumption or factors associated with this nutritional behaviour may play a role in reducing the risk of atrial fibrillation and possibly heart failure.
“Since only a small proportion of this population had moderate (about 5%) or high (less than 2%) nut consumption, 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.”
Previous studies have found eating nuts regularly can lower the risk of heart disease, stroke and associated death.
Nuts are a rich source of healthy fats, minerals and antioxidants, all of which could boost cardiovascular health, the researchers said.
Tracy Parker, senior dietitian at the British Heart Foundation, said: “Although this study did find that eating nuts was associated with a reduced risk of atrial fibrillation and possible heart failure, the researchers also found that people who ate nuts regularly were healthier in other ways.
“These participants were less likely to smoke and were more active and therefore it’s unlikely that their nut consumption alone was responsible for their healthier hearts.
“We do know that eating a handful of unsalted nuts each day will do you good, especially if they replace unhealthy snacks like crisp and sweets.
“However, unfortunately, going nuts for nuts won’t reverse the health risks of an unhealthy lifestyle.”