A new, comprehensive study confirms what we keep hearing about nuts: eat them, even just half a handful a day, and live longer.
Food and mortality studies have become so abundant, and so frequently seem to contradict one another, that it’s easy to start taking them all with a grain of salt. But when a very comprehensive study comes out with significant findings, it’s hard not to take notice.
The study in question is about eating nuts, and it's not of the “20 subjects over a few weeks” variety. Rather, it was carried out within the Netherlands Cohort Study, which has been running since 1986 and includes over 120,000 Dutch men and women.
What the study’s authors concluded was that men and women who eat at least 10 grams of nuts or peanuts per day – about half a handful – have a decreased risk of succumbing to several major causes of death compared to people who don't consume nuts or peanuts.
The results showed the most promise for reducing mortality due to respiratory disease, neurodegenerative disease, and diabetes, followed by cancer and cardiovascular diseases. Peanuts were found to offer equal protection as tree nuts, but alas, peanut butter did not show the same effect. (Peanut butter often has added ingredients – like salt and vegetable oils – and contains trans fatty acids, which could work to counter the salubrious nature of the peanuts themselves.)
Earlier Asian and American studies have shown an association between eating nuts and peanuts and a lower risk of cardiovascular disease, but the new study was surprising for its revelation that mortality due to cancer, diabetes, respiratory, and neurodegenerative diseases was also lowered.
Project leader and epidemiologist Professor Piet van den Brandt says, "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,” he added.
We can likely thank nuts’ monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids, vitamins, fiber, antioxidants, and other bioactive compounds for their role in reducing the risk of disease. And with only 15 grams required, which provide less than 100 calories, it almost seems crazy not to start eating half a handful a day.