Go Nuts To Reduce Risk of Dying
Unless you have a nut or peanut allergy, new research findings suggest you may want to eat at least half a handful of nuts or peanuts every day. At least 10 grams of these foods, but not peanut butter, could reduce your risk of succumbing to several major causes of death.
You may be familiar with some of the reports about the health benefits of nuts. For example, nuts (pistachios) have been associated with better gastrointestinal health, walnuts and other tree nuts are helpful for people with diabetes, almonds can be beneficial in fighting colds and flu, and nuts may reduce the risk of dying from heart disease.
The new study was conducted within the Netherlands Cohort Study, which includes more than 120,000 adults aged 55 to 69 years and has been running since 1986. Investigators from Maastricht University had access to lifestyle and dietary data (portion size and frequency of consumption of tree nuts, peanuts, and peanut butter) as well as mortality follow-up information from Statistics Netherlands.
When nut consumption was compared with no nut consumption, the findings were as follows:
- Reduction in risk of death was strongest for respiratory disease, neurodegenerative disease, and diabetes, followed by cancer and cardiovascular diseases
- Benefits were equal in women and men
- Tree nuts and peanuts demonstrated similar strong reductions in mortality, but peanut butter did not
- Intake of more than 15 grams of nuts and/or peanuts daily was not associated with a greater reduction in risk of dying
What’s so special about nuts and peanuts? They contain healthful fats (monounsaturated, polyunsaturated), antioxidants, vitamins, fiber, and other substances that may be instrumental in reducing mortality.
According to the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 2009-2010, 38.2 percent of adults consumed nuts on a given day. Of that amount, about 80 percent of nuts eaten were nuts or seeds as single-item foods or nut butters.
In this study, peanut butter was not found to be associated with a reduction in mortality. The authors noted that peanut butter contains other ingredients, such as vegetable oils and salt, and in the past it also contained trans fats, all of which could negate the positive impact of the peanuts themselves.
Whether natural, organic peanut butter and nut butters without any added ingredients would provide the same health benefits as the nuts themselves was not explored in this study. However, it is a legitimate question that could be pursued.
For now, the bottom line appears to be that eating a small amount of nuts, 10 to 15 grams daily (one-third to one-half ounce, which provides less than 100 calories on average) could reduce the risk of dying from several major medical conditions.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention/NHNES 2009-2010
Van den Brandt P, Schouten LJ. Relationship of tree nut, peanut and peanut butter intake with total and cause-specific mortality: a cohort study and meta-analysis. International Journal of Epidemiology 2015 June 11 published online.