Brazil Nuts are a healthy nut, and are considered by some to be one of the best nuts for maintaining good health. They are good for the immune system and help to prevent cancer. With Christmas just over a month away, families will be seated around the Christmas tree munching away on dark chocolate coated Brazil nuts, happy that they are eating a healthy snack. But we have some bad news!
Brazil nuts are rich in protein, iron, calcium, and zinc, Brazil nuts also contain the highest natural source of selenium – one nut exceeds the recommended daily amount (RDA). This is good.
However, it now appears that eating too many Brazil nuts can lead to elevated levels of bad cholesterol which can increase the risk of heart disease. The culprit for this increased cholesterol is the high levels of selenium which they contain. Originally it was thought that the Brazil nut was a good source of selenium, filling a nutritional gap, but this selenium may actually be unhealthy. Selenium is also found in fish and meat.
The recent study was published in the Journal of Nutrition. The scientists that carried out the research into diet and heart disease found that people with high levels of selenium in their diet had a 10% increase in cholesterol levels in their blood.
On average people consume about half the daily recommended level of selenium, so most people are not at any additional risk. However, a lot of people do consume large amounts of nuts as they are generally healthy. Some people choose Brazil nuts due to their other health benefits, such as the anti-cancer properties.
“We believe that the widespread use of selenium supplements, or of any other strategy that artificially increases selenium status above the level required, is unwarranted at the present time”. Dr Saverio Stranges, lead researcher.
More research is needed as the study was not conclusive that selenium was the main factor in raising bad cholesterol. Also selenium does play a role in maintaining a healthy body too, selenium deficiency is very rare amongst people that eat a healthy and well balanced diet. There is a strong link, but for now Brazil nuts are still a healthier choice over candy or hamburgers!
Further information and resources
The researcher: Dr. Stranges from Warwick Medical School primarily focuses on the epidemiology and prevention of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes. In particular, he studies the effects of traditional and emerging risk factors as well the effects of non-pharmacological interventions in primary prevention of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes mellitus.
- Alcohol drinking pattern and cardio-metabolic risk
- Body fat distribution, obesity, and cardio-metabolic risk
- The role of selenium in cardiovascular disease
The Research Paper: Higher Selenium Status is Associated with Adverse Blood Lipid Profile in British Adults. Saverio Stranges, Martin Laclaustra, Chen Ji, Francesco P. Cappuccio, Ana Navas-Acien, Jose M. Ordovas, Margaret Rayman, and Eliseo Guallar
J. Nutr.,first published on Nov 11, 2009 as doi: doi:10.3945/jn.109.111252