According to the findings of the largest study of its kind, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, persons who consume a handful of nuts every day have longer lives than those who do not eat any nuts at all.
Researchers from Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and Harvard School of Public Health reached this result after examining data on over 120,000 patients collected over a 30-year period.
The results of the study also revealed that habitual nut eaters were often smaller than those who did not consume nuts on a regular basis, putting to rest the myth that consuming nuts causes weight gain.
Senior author Charles S. Fuchs, director of the Gastrointestinal Cancer Treatment Center at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, and colleagues also investigated whether consuming nuts was associated with causes of death or whether it was unrelated.
Prof. Fuchs has the following to say:
“The most immediately noticeable benefit was a reduction of 29 percent in deaths from heart disease, which is the leading cause of mortality in the United States. The risk of dying from cancer was reduced by a significant amount – 11 percent – according to our findings.”
Interestingly, both peanuts and tree nuts had a similar effect
The researchers also discovered that the reduced risk of death was the same for both nuts that grow on trees, such as cashews and Brazil nuts, and peanuts that grow underground, such as peanuts grown from seeds. Almonds, hazelnuts, macadamias, pecans, pine nuts, pistachios, and walnuts are some of the other types of tree nuts available.
It was not possible to determine whether this was also true in the case of linkages to protection against certain causes of mortality due to the lack of data.
Previous research has established a link between eating nuts and a lower risk of developing a variety of ailments, including heart disease, type 2 diabetes, gallstones, colon cancer, and diverticulitis, among others.
Although minor studies have linked increased nut intake to decreased death from all causes in some populations, no study has evaluated the influence of nut consumption on mortality in a large population for such a prolonged period of time.
The more nuts people consumed, the less probable it was that they would die
76,464 women who participated in the Nurses’ Health Study between 1980 and 2010 and 42,498 men who participated in the Health Professionals’ Follow-up Study between 1986 and 2010 were analysed in this new study, according to the researchers.
In both cohorts of study participants, thorough dietary questionnaires were completed every 2-4 years, and they also answered questions about their lifestyle and health.
As part of their responses to the food questionnaires, the participants were asked to estimate how many servings of nuts they consumed in a serving size of one ounce (approximately 28g), which is roughly the amount included in a tiny packet of peanuts purchased from a vending machine.
The researchers employed advanced statistical tools to eliminate the effect of characteristics that could have had had a beneficial impact on the risk of death, such as smoking and obesity.
Individuals who ate more nuts were found to be thinner, to consume more fruits and vegetables, to not smoke, to be more physically active, and to consume more alcoholic beverages, among other things.
However, they were able to exclude the effects of these variables and discover an independent relationship between nut consumption and a lower risk of death.
Dr. Ying Bao of Brigham and Women’s Hospital, the study’s first author, describes what they discovered:
“In all these analyses, the more nuts people ate, the less likely they were to die over the 30-year follow-up period.”
According to the findings, eating nuts less than once a week was associated with an 8% reduced risk of death, once a week was associated with an 11% reduction, two to four times a week was associated with a 13 percent reduction, five to six times a week was associated with a 15% reduction, and seven or more times a week was associated with a 20 percent reduction.
It is important to note that because the study was not meant to evaluate cause and effect, it cannot be concluded that consuming more nuts causes people to live longer lives, according to the researchers.
Despite this, the researchers claim that the findings are strongly compatible with “a wealth of existing observational and clinical trial data supporting the health benefits of nut consumption on a wide range of chronic conditions.”
Several grants from the National Institutes of Health and the International Tree Nut Council Nutrition Research & Education Foundation contributed to the study’s financial success.