NUTS & GALLSTONES

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The gallbladder is a small sack that holds extra bile made by the liver before it gets pumped into the common bile duct and the small intestine. Bile, a greenish yellow juice helps break down fat. If bile contains too much cholesterol, it tends to crystallize, which results in gallstones.

Nuts, long considered a salty snack-food by Americans, have several benefits, most notably for prevention of heart disease. Now, nuts are being seriously considered as a nutritional remedy to prevent gallstones.

Late last year, a study showed that high nut consumption (including peanuts) lowered the risk of gallstones by as much as 30% when compared with low consumption (less than one ounce a month). The data published by Harvard researchers from the Health Professionals Follow-Up study followed more than 51,000 American males in healthcare professions.

How do nuts chock-full of fat do that? True, nuts are fatty, but it is the "good" unsaturated fat that lowers the "bad" LDL cholesterol, so they keep cholesterol levels in bile low. Further, like any other plant-based food, nuts are high in fiber. High fiber protects against gallstones by decreasing the circulation of bile acids in the intestine. Importantly, the high magnesium content of nuts may be another reason for their benefit.

A word of caution: Nuts are high in calories! For example, 12 roasted almonds have nearly as many calories as an 8-ounce serving of a typical sort drink. Despite that, nuts are now in the mainstream of American diet -- try putting them in rice or pasta. As with any other things, the refrain to keep the consumption of nuts within reasonable limits.

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