Study finds eating nuts reduces risk of death

Nuts are a perfect example of good things that come in small packages. Bite-sized and tasty, nuts are filled with heart-healthy fats, protein, vitamins and minerals.

New research has established a link between lower mortality rates and eating nuts and peanuts. The study found that eating at least 10 grams of either peanuts or nuts reduces risk of death. On the flip side, the study didn’t find any protective effect of eating peanut butter.

The study looked at peanut, peanut butter and tree nut consumption, and while the benefits of nut consumption were equal for men and women, EurekAlert reports that mortality rates decreased most drastically for respiratory disease, neurodegenerative disease and diabetes. The mortality rates for cancer and cardiovascular diseases were also reduced significantly.

The research paper, published in the International Journal of Epidemiology, drew its data from within the Netherlands Cohort Study, which has been running since 1986 and includes information from more than 1,20,000 Dutch men and women aged between 55 and 69 years.

This actually confirms what other studies, which were conducted in America and Asia, have found — that cardiovascular death risk reduces with the intake of tree nuts and peanuts. But where the previous American and Asian studies have mainly focused on cardiovascular death risk, the new study by researchers from Maastricht University also establish links between the consumption of nuts and the reduction in mortality rates from cancer, diabetes, respiratory and neurodegenerative diseases.

However, if you thought you could get the benefits of peanuts by eating peanut butter, it turns out thats’ not the case. While peanut butter contains healthy fats, vitamins, minerals, and a decent amount of protein, it also contains salt and possibly added trans-fats that neutralise any health benefits. If possible, peanut butter should be consumed in its most natural form, just ground-up peanuts, and in moderation. Any health benefits may be offset if it causes an increase in body fat.

Researchers say eating nuts in increasing amounts doesn’t really diminish your risk of death from these diseases further. Project leader and epidemiologist, Professor Piet van den Brandt, says, “It was remarkable that substantially lower mortality was already observed at consumption levels of 15 grams of nuts or peanuts on average per day (half a handful). A higher intake was not associated with further reduction in mortality risk. This was also supported by a meta-analysis of previously published studies together with the Netherlands Cohort Study, in which cancer and respiratory mortality showed this same dose-response pattern.”

It’s a known fact that nuts are rich in essential nutrients like fiber, protein, minerals, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids, and antioxidants and have bounty health benefits.

Peanuts and tree nuts contain compounds that are considered to be beneficial. These include monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids, antioxidants, vitamins as well as other bioactive compounds and may play a role in lowering death rates. However, it should be noted that peanut butter also contains other components such as salts and vegetable oils, which may inhibit the protective effects of peanuts.

According to one 2010 study “by virtue of their unique composition, nuts are likely to beneficially impact health outcomes. Epidemiologic studies have associated nut consumption with a reduced incidence of coronary heart disease and gallstones in both genders and diabetes in women,” and “studies consistently show that nut intake has a cholesterol-lowering effect.”

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