It Worked for the Comic Strip
The perennial favorite comic strip, “Peanuts,” featuring Charlie Brown and Lucy, among other lovable characters, has been around for the better part of a century now. Even long after its creator’s death, Peanuts has survived and even thrived in American newspapers. Now, scientists from the Netherlands have published new research which suggests that eating peanuts and other tree nuts is also associated with long life. Like the namesake comic strip, edible peanuts appear to have staying power.
But don’t reach for the peanut butter. Greater intake of peanuts and tree nuts, such as almonds, walnuts or pistachios, is linked to protection against developing heart disease, cancer, respiratory illnesses, and other major causes of death. But there was no such relationship between consumption of peanut butter and risk of dying from all causes. Investigators speculate that that’s because peanut butter includes added salt and vegetable oils. The strongest protection conferred by peanut and nut consumption appeared to be against respiratory disease, neurodegenerative disease, and diabetes, followed by cancer and cardiovascular diseases.
Previous studies by other investigative teams have focused on the effects of nut consumption on heart disease risk factors. But the present study examined all major causes of death to arrive at the conclusion that nut consumption is also protective against other diseases. In a press release, project leader and epidemiologist Professor Piet van den Brandt commented: “It was remarkable that substantially lower mortality was already observed at consumption levels of 15 grams of nuts or peanuts on average per day. 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.”
Fifteen grams of nuts is equal to about a half handful of the tasty treats. Although they are relatively high in fats, nuts invariably contain heart-healthy mono-and polyunsaturated fatty acids, which are actually good for the cardiovascular system. They also contain not-insignificant amounts of essential vitamins and minerals, and contribute antioxidants and fiber, and other bioactive compounds. Previous studies have also demonstrated that nuts help control appetite, and may be useful snacks for people attempting to lose weight.
Piet A. van den Brandt, Leo J. Schouten. 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, June 2015