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Eating Nuts Associated with Reduced Death Rate

  • Jessica Berman

FILE - Pistachio nuts are displayed at the headquarters of Primex International Trading Corp. in Los Angeles, California.

FILE - Pistachio nuts are displayed at the headquarters of Primex International Trading Corp. in Los Angeles, California.

Eat nuts, live longer. Researchers have found that those who eat a handful of peanuts or cashews every day significantly decrease their risk of dying from all causes compared to those who do not eat nuts. A new study concludes that all types of nuts seem to be protective.

It does not matter whether they are peanuts grown on the ground or tree nuts, such as almonds, Brazil nuts, hazelnuts, walnuts or cashews. Those who eat nuts at least five times per week seem to be healthier and live longer than those who do not consume nuts regularly.

Researcher Ying Bao is with the Department of Medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard University Medical School in Boston, Massachusetts.

She and her colleagues looked at the impact of nut consumption by analyzing two huge studies that began in 1980 - the Nurses’ Health Study, which tracks the well-being of more than 76,000 women, and 42,000 men enrolled in the Health Professionals Follow-up Study.

Among the questions asked at the beginning of the studies was, 'how frequently do you eat nuts?' The information was updated every two to four years. Bao says the participants were followed for three decades.

“What we observed is that people who eat more nuts are less likely to die over the next 30 years," said Bao. "So, for example, if a person eat(s) nuts once per day, that person has a 20 percent lower risk of dying.”

Bao says eating a handful of nuts five or more times per week was associated with a 29 percent reduced risk of dying from heart disease and an 11 percent lower risk of cancer death. A serving size is 28 grams.

Previous studies have linked nut consumption to a reduced risk of type 2 diabetes, colon cancer, gallstones and diverticulitis or inflammation within the large bowel.

Nuts contain nutrients, including high quality proteins, vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals, all of which have anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer effects and may help protect the heart.

Bao says researchers are planning studies to find out how nuts are beneficial to human health.

"The exact biological mechanisms are unclear at this point. And the next step we are going to do is to look at the association between nut consumption and the different biomarkers," he said. "And we have data available for these two large studies."

The study on the health benefits of nuts was funded by the International Tree Nut Council Research and Education Foundation.

Ying Bao and colleagues published their findings in the New England Journal of Medicine.