When it comes to food, not all fat is created equally. While eating large quantities of processed, deep fried fare is not great, that doesn’t mean eschewing fat altogether is good, either. A new paper published in JAMA Internal Medicine supports this, and describes a study which ultimately found that consumption of peanuts and tree nuts is associated with lower overall mortality, but in particular, it was associated with lower mortality due to heart disease.
"Nuts are rich in nutrients, such as unsaturated fatty acids, fiber, vitamins, phenolic antioxidants, arginine and other phytochemicals,” lead author Xiao-Ou Shu from Vanderbilt University said in a press release. “All of them are known to be beneficial to cardiovascular health, probably through their anti-oxidative, anti-inflammatory and endothelial function maintenance properties.”
This study differed from other previous work on the topic because it utilized medical information from people who are economically disadvantaged and who have a wide variety of ethnic backgrounds. Previous studies have found that well-off white populations saw mortality-decreasing benefits associated with peanut consumption, but that would not have accounted for other dietary and environmental factors that could have influenced the findings. By using a low-income cohort and seeing similar results, this study was able to validate those previous studies.
The researchers utilized information from over 200,000 individuals of Asian, African, and European descent. Participants filled out questionnaires regarding their consumption of peanuts. The participants were then tracked for several years, during which time 14,000 of the individuals passed away.
However, they found that those who consumed peanuts had drastically reduced total mortality, by 17-21 percent. When they examined the cause of death, they realized that eating peanuts was linked to a decrease of a staggering 23-38 percent in death caused by cardiovascular disease.
"In our study, we found that peanut consumption was associated with reduced total mortality and cardiovascular disease mortality in a predominantly low-income black and white population in the U.S., and among Chinese men and women living in Shanghai," Shu explained.
This study cannot conclude that the nuts are causing the decreased mortality. If peanuts do turn out to be the cause, it could present an easy, efficient way of boosting cardiovascular health. Although the correlation is very strong and exciting, future research is most definitely needed in this field.
"The data arise from observational epidemiologic studies, and not randomized clinical trials, and thus we cannot be sure that peanuts per se were responsible for the reduced mortality observed,” added co-author William Blot from Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center.