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Peanuts, Nuts Linked to Lower Death Rates

Jun 12, 2015 07:21 AM EDT

(Photo : Diana Taliun / Fotolia)

Peanuts and other nuts have been linked to lower death rates, according to a new study. Curiously, the same cannot be said when eating peanut butter.

That's based on new findings published in the International Journal of Epidemiology, which detail how men and women who ate at least 10 grams of nuts or peanuts per day had a lower risk of dying from several major - and often fatal - conditions compared to those who don't snack on these nuts.

Their protective effects were strongest for respiratory disease, neurodegenerative disease, and diabetes, followed by cancer and cardiovascular diseases. The effects are equal in men and women.

Interestingly, while peanuts reduce mortality rates just as much as tree nuts, peanut butter, on the other hand, is reportedly not associated with lower mortality, according to researchers from Maastricht University.

This study was carried out within the Netherlands Cohort Study, which has been running since 1986 among over 120,000 Dutch 55-69 year old men and women. Nut consumption was assessed by asking about portion size and how often peanuts, other nuts (tree nuts), and peanut butter were consumed on a daily basis.

The associations between nuts and peanut intake and cardiovascular death confirm results from related American and Asian studies that focused on cardiovascular diseases. However, in this new study, it was found that mortality due to cancer, diabetes, respiratory, and neurodegenerative diseases was also lowered among frequent peanut and nut snackers.

"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)," project leader and epidemiologist Professor Piet van den Brandt said in a press release. 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."

So what is it about these nuts that make them so beneficial to our health? Peanuts and tree nuts both contain various compounds such as monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids, various vitamins, fiber, antioxidants, and other bioactive compounds, that possibly contribute to the lower death rates. And though you might think that because peanut butter is made from peanuts it would exhibit the same effects, researchers note that this food also contains added components like salt and vegetable oils. In the past, it has been shown that peanut butter contains trans fatty acids and therefore the composition of peanut butter is different from peanuts.

The adverse health effects of salt and trans fatty acids could possibly inhibit the protective effects of peanuts.

For more great nature science stories and general news, please visit our sister site, Headlines and Global News (HNGN).

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