A new study has found that just half a handful of nuts a day can cut one's risk of dying from numerous illnesses, including cancer, diabetes and heart disease. However, the protective effect does not extend to peanut butter.
According to Honor Whiteman of Medical News Today, the study was conducted in the Netherlands by Professor Piet van den Brandt and others at Maastricht University. The results have been published in the International Journal of Epidemiology.
"Peanuts and nuts are a good source of omega-3, fiber, vitamin E, antioxidants and 'good' fats," Whiteman wrote. "As such, they have been associated with a number of health benefits, particularly for the heart."
Whiteman reported that researchers gathered and assessed data from more than 120,000 men and women between the ages of 55 and 69 from the Netherlands; all participants were asked how often and how much they consumed nuts, peanuts and peanut butter. The study, which started back in 1986, looked at the link between consuming these foods and cause-specific mortality.
"The study results revealed that participants who consumed around 15 grams of nuts or peanuts every day - the equivalent to half a handful - were at lower risk of death from numerous diseases, including cancer, diabetes, respiratory disease, heart disease and neurodegenerative disease, compared with participants who did not consume nuts or peanuts," Whiteman wrote.
According to Whiteman, the link was strongest for respiratory and neurodegenerative disease and the results were distributed equally. However, the study found no effect for those who consumed peanut butter.
"The team says this could be because peanut butter contains salt, vegetable oil and trans fatty acids, which may counteract the healthy benefits of peanuts," Whiteman wrote.
Whiteman added that the researchers discovered that "eating more than 15 grams of nuts daily did not lead to a further reduction in mortality risk among participants."
According to a report in the Telegraph, the link between nuts and peanuts confirmed earlier results from previous studies conducted by researchers in the United States and Asian countries. Those studies often focused on cardiovascular diseases.
"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," Brandt said. "A higher intake was not associated with further reduction in mortality risk."
Brandt added that the results were "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."