Novel Lines of Research on the Environmental and Human Health Impacts of Nut Consumption
Nuts have formed part of human diets throughout the ages. In recent decades, research has shown they are key foods in dietary patterns associated with lower chronic disease risk. The current state of climate change, however, has introduced an imperative to review the impact of dietary patterns on the environment with a shift to plant-based diets. Nuts emerge as a significant source of protein in plant-based diets and are a minimally processed and sustainable food. Research in this area is evolving to drive better production methods in varying climate conditions. Nevertheless, nut consumption remains an important contributor to human health. The mechanisms of action can be explained in terms of the nutrients they deliver. Studies of nut consumption have linked components such as monounsaturated fatty acids, plant omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants, and plant sterols to improved lipoprotein profiles, lower blood pressure, and reduced cardiovascular disease risk. Preliminary research also indicates possible beneficial effects of nut consumption on reproductive health. In any case, the ultimate effects of foods on health are the results of multiple interactive factors, so where nuts fit within dietary patterns is a significant consideration for research translation. This has implications for research methodologies, including categorization within food groups and inclusion in Healthy Dietary Indices. The aim of this narrative review is to outline new focal points for investigation that examine the environmental and some novel human health impacts of nut consumption and discuss future directions for research.
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Universitat Rovira i Virgili