We have known for some time that nuts are a healthy food. Now a new study reveals this high-protein snack may be the key to living longer by preventing many chronic diseases. Research published in the International Journal of Epidemiology shows eating at least ten grams of nuts or peanuts daily is associated with a lower rate of death from respiratory disease, neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, diabetes, cancer, and heart disease. Nut butters, however, did not offer the same protection.
Researchers examined data from 120,00 male and female participants, aged 55 to 69, in the Netherlands Cohort study, which has been ongoing since 1986. The subjects were asked how frequently they include tree nuts, peanuts and peanut butter in their diet, and how much of each they consumed. Lead scientist Professor Piet van den Brandt told CBS News:
Compared to those not eating any nuts or peanuts, the relative reductions in mortality rate for people who consumed at least 10 grams of nuts or peanuts per day were 23 percent regarding total mortality risk (all deaths), 21 percent for cancer, 17 percent for cardiovascular deaths, and 39 percent for respiratory deaths.
Ten grams of nuts is about half a handful. The study showed eating more than 15 grams does not provide additional benefits.
As part of their research, the scientists surveyed earlier data on the effect of nut consumption on cancer and respiratory illness mortality. That data supported the findings of the Dutch study.
Longevity expert Dan Buettner wrote the book, The Blue Zones Solution, for which he studied the diets of the oldest living humans throughout the past century. He says the research is consistent with his own conclusions. He explained:
By examining 155 dietary surveys conducted over the last century in all five Blue Zones, we found that legumes — including peanuts — were the cornerstone of every longevity diet in the world. Also, eating a handful of nuts is associated with 2 – 3 years of increased life expectancy.
The “Blue Zones,” countries where people have the longest life expectancy, include Okinawa, Japan; Sardinia, Italy; Loma Linda, California; Icaria, Greece; and the Nicoya Peninsula of Costa Rica.
Health experts speculate the reason tree nuts and peanuts prevent deadly disease is that they both contain healthy monosaturated and polysaturated fats, along with fiber and other nutrients. Buettner points out that the study does not prove a causal relationship; it may be that people who eat more nuts are eating fewer unhealthy foods.