#192 Could 4 Brazil Nuts be the Best Cholesterol Lowering Drug?

Could 4 Brazil Nuts be the Best Cholesterol Lowering Drug?

There is a one in three chance you should take a statin cholesterol lowering drug according to the American Heart Association.  Sadly, high cholesterol causes heart attacks, strokes, and a premature death.

While statin cholesterol lowering drugs are effective, there are many side effects.  In this article, I share a provocative study showing that just 4 Brazil nuts a month may lower cholesterol as well as a statin.

The 4 Brazil Nuts Cholesterol Study

In this study, researchers from Brazil recruited 10 healthy volunteers to test the cholesterol lowering effects of Brazil nuts.  As Brazil nuts are very high in selenium, study participants had to avoid other high selenium foods.

To understand the effects of 4 Brazil nuts, researchers did extensive blood work.  They tested the blood of participants before they ate the nuts and then again 8 more times after they ate the nuts.

Remarkably, researchers found that just 4 Brazil nuts a month was enough to lower LDL (bad) cholesterol by about 25% and raise HDL (good) cholesterol by 40%.  Even better, just 4 Brazil nuts kept cholesterol in check for an entire month!

Thus, if this study holds true, 4 Brazil nuts could be the equivalent of a month’s worth of statin drugs.  When study results like this seem too good to be true, you always have to look to other studies for verification.

Nuts and Cholesterol Lowering Studies

Before committing to 4 Brazil nuts every month, a different study showed that Brazil nuts don’t do much to improve cholesterol numbers.  In a situation like this, which study do you believe?

As these were the only two studies I could find on Brazil nuts and cholesterol, we need to expand the search.  Fortunately, when you pool the results of 61 different cholesterol nut studies, all nuts have been shown to improve cholesterol numbers.  Thus, Brazil nuts are probably helpful for people struggling with cholesterol challenges.

The 5 Benefits of Selenium

As the biggest difference between Brazil nuts and other nuts is the selenium content, what exactly does selenium do for you?  When selenium is eaten in the right amounts, it may offer the following 5 benefits.

1. Antioxidant/Anti-inflammatory Effects

Selenium is a powerful antioxidant.  Every day, many “free radicals” are created by chemical reactions going on in your body.

Left unchecked, these free radicals can cause inflammation.  Inflammation is really just rusting and premature aging of your body.  Thus, it comes as no surprise that one study showed Brazil nuts significantly reduce inflammation.

2. Optimizes Thyroid Function

Your thyroid needs the right amount of selenium to function properly.  If you are low in selenium, thyroid problems can occur.  Thus, studies show that optimal selenium levels may improve energy metabolism and help you to maintain a healthy weight.

3. Prevents Plaque Build Up and Heart Deaths

Studies show that selenium is very effective in preventing plaque build up in your arteries and heart.  Thus, selenium may lengthen your lifespan by preventing heart disease.

4. Prevents Dementia

Too low or too high selenium levels are linked to dementia.  To prevent dementia, researchers are now giving older people with low selenium levels selenium supplements.

5. Prevents Cancer

As selenium is a powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory, scientists have long been interested in potential cancer prevention effects.  Of the many studies done, the evidence for selenium as an anti-cancer agent seems to be strongest for preventing prostate cancer.

How much selenium do you need?

The recommended daily amount of selenium is 55 mcg.  As a single Brazil nut gives you about 50 mcg, one Brazil nut is all you need for 100% of your daily needs.

However, you have to be careful not to overdo selenium.  While selenium can be very beneficial in the right amount, higher levels can be toxic.

As most Americans get enough selenium in their diets, I would never recommend more than one Brazil nut daily.  Some examples of foods high in selenium include fish, mushrooms, asparagus, and tofu.  Also, if you are getting selenium in a multivitamin, then even one Brazil nut may be too much for you.

If you want to find out if you are getting the right amount of selenium, Healthwatch 360 is an excellent free app to track your daily selenium intake from food.

Where do you buy Brazil nuts?

Brazil nuts can be hard to find.  Most grocery stores don’t carry this nut.  If you can’t find them locally, you can always buy them online through Amazon.

Should you take 4 Brazil nuts a month?

Should you really take 4 Brazil nuts each month to keep your cholesterol low?  While this is something that only your doctor can advise you on, I personally am doing this.

The way I figure is that any potential downside to 4 Brazil nuts a month seems quite minimal to me.  While 4 Brazil nuts may not be the cholesterol wonder drug it was shown to be in this study, it is likely still helping me optimize selenium levels, reduce inflammation, and lower cholesterol.

Have you tried Brazil nuts?  Did it help your cholesterol?

Please leave your thoughts and questions below.  I will do my best to answer every question.

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Don’t stop any medications you may be taking based on this article.  Speak with your doctor about any medication or cholesterol questions you may have.

Disclaimer Policy: This website is intended to give general information and does not provide medical advice. This website does not create a doctor-patient relationship between you and Dr. John Day. If you have a medical problem, immediately contact your healthcare provider. Information on this website is not intended to diagnose or treat any condition. Dr. John Day is not responsible for any losses, damages or claims that may result from your medical decisions.

  1. Dear Dr John, I always enjoy reading your posts, but I think you have let yourself down on this one. 55mcg a day is the minimum needed to ensure you don’t go short. The optimum amount is far more. If this were not so, then Brazil nuts would not be sold by the pound here in the UK! Also, you have ignored the issue of how much of that selenium is actually absorbed by the body. Trustworthy firms here in the UK sell selenium tablets of 200mcg, to be taken one a day, so the level of excess must be well above this figure. Please look into this whole area of how much to supplement etc more carefully – You may enjoy reading Patrick Holford’s books as a starting point . . .

    • I’m sorry you feel this way. You are correct, unless you have access to advanced testing equipment it is impossible to know how much selenium is being absorbed and what your levels are at.

      In all of my articles, I never recommend any treatment. I review studies that I feel will help most of my readers. At the end of the day, it is up to the readers to discuss what they learn with their healthcare providers to determine what is best for them.

      In this case, I am not recommending any selenium. Readers can work with their healthcare providers to see if they need high dose Brazil nuts, low dose Brazil nuts, or no Brazil nuts.

      Selenium is a mineral you have to get right. Too much or too little is associated with heart issues, cancer, dementia, etc.

      Personally, I found this study remarkable that significant cardiac benefit could be gained from just 200 mcg of selenium each month. Whether or not the findings of this study are true or not will require other studies to verify.

      Thanks for reading!


  2. Hi Dr John,
    Were the Brazil nuts administered all at once or one nut at evenly spaced intervals 4 times a month?