Nuts, being good sources of all three major macronutrients, have been a staple of the human diet for ages. Now, there’s a new reason to love nuts – they may help you live a longer life. Researchers from Maastricht University found that nuts and peanuts are directly associated with lower mortality rates. Sadly, peanut butter doesn’t count.
Specifically, men and women who ate at least 10 grams of peanuts or tree (“true”) nuts per day were shown to have a significantly reduced risk of dying from several major causes of death, including respiratory disease, neurodegenerative disease and diabetes, as well as cancer and cardiovascular disease. Over the course of the study, there appeared to be no distinction in benefits between men and women. Additionally, peanuts, which are not technically nuts but legumes, appeared to be just as effective as “real” nuts.
The study was part of something called the Netherlands Cohort Study, which has been active since 1986. It includes over 120,000 Dutch men and women aged 55-69, and in this case nut consumption was measured by a simple survey where participants self-reported both portion size and intake frequency of nuts, peanuts and peanut butter. While earlier studies had found that nuts had a positive impact on cardiovascular mortality, this is the first to find similar associations with lowered risk of cancer, diabetes, respiratory and neurodegenerative diseases.
“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,” said project leader and epidemiologist Professor Piet van den Brandt.
The scientists can’t say for certain why nuts have this effect, though they’re loaded with so much fiber, antioxidants, healthy fats and other compounds that it’s likely that many factors play a part. It’s assumed that peanut butter did not produce the same benefits due to the salt, sugar and unhealthy fats often added in its production.