The study was carried out by researchers from Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Trondheim, Norway, Imperial College London, and other institutions in the US.
The researchers searched two literature databases to identify any randomized controlled trials or prospective cohort studies that had looked at how nut intake in adults was linked with cardiovascular disease, cancer and death from any cause.
The research included all kinds of nuts including hazelnuts, walnuts, cashews, macadamia nuts and pine nuts, as well as peanut.
The analysis revealed that as little as 20 grams a day, the equivalent of a handful, can reduce the risk of coronary heart disease by almost 30 percent, the risk of cardiovascular disease by 21 percent and the risk of all cancers by 15 percent.
Eating a handful of nuts every day also decreased the risk of diabetes by almost 40 percent and the risk of infectious diseases by 75 percent.
“It has been shown in randomized trials that higher nut intake can reduce triglycerides and cholesterol in the blood,” said the lead author, Dagfinn Aune, a research fellow at Imperial College London.
Unless a person is allergic to them, Dr. Aune continued, eating nuts has little risk and considerable potential benefits.
“Nuts and peanuts are high in fiber, magnesium, polyunsaturated fats and nutrients that are beneficial for cutting cardiovascular disease risk and which can reduce cholesterol levels,” Aune says.
The findings have been published in the journal BMC Medicine.