Eating Nuts Might Be a Healthy Choice

Nut consumption tied to reduced death risk in new long term study of men and women

(RxWiki News) Could snacking on a handful of nuts several times a week help you live longer? New research suggests that this might be the case.

Researchers followed large groups of men and women for 30 years and measured their nut consumption and rates of death.

The study found a relationship between higher intake of nuts and a reduced risk of death.

"Eat a balanced diet with a variety of healthy foods."

According to the study's authors, who were led by Charles S. Fuchs, MD, MPH, director of the Gastrointestinal Cancer Center at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, previous studies have linked nut consumption and a reduced risk of chronic diseases. Dr. Fuchs and colleagues wanted to explore nut consumption and mortality, or incidence of death.

To do so, the researchers used the Nurses' Health Study, which was administered from 1980 to 2010, to identify 76,464 female participants. The Health Professionals Follow-up Study, administered from 1986 to 2010, was used to identify 42,498 male participants.

None of the participants had a history of cancer, heart disease or stroke. Using food questionnaires, Dr. Fuchs and colleagues measured participants' nut consumption at the study's start and every two to four years following. Participants reported how many times per week they ate a serving (one ounce, or 28 grams) of any type of nut.

The researchers determined if a death had occurred by using state records, the National Death Index, reports from family members and postal authorities. During the course of the study, 16,200 women and 11,229 men died.

After adjusting the data for factors like smoking, weight and exercise, Dr. Fuchs and colleagues found that those who ate more nuts were less likely to have died, and those who ate fewer nuts were more likely to have died.

An increasing amount of nuts eaten seemed to be related to a greater reduction in the risk of death. For example, the participants who ate nuts less than once a week had a 7 percent lower rate of mortality than those who never ate nuts, those who ate nuts two to four times a week had a 13 percent lower rate of mortality and those who ate nuts seven or more times a week had a 20 percent lower rate of morality.

It is possible that additional lifestyle factors might have been involved in these findings. It is important to note that this study showed an association between nuts and reduced mortality, not a relationship of cause and effect.

"However, our data are consistent with a wealth of existing observational and clinical trial data in supporting the health benefits of nut consumption for many chronic diseases," Dr. Fuchs and colleagues wrote. They also noted that the nutrients in nuts, such as unsaturated fatty acids, protein, fiber and vitamins, might have anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, heart-protecting and anti-cancer properties.

This study was published November 20 in The New England Journal of Medicine. The study was funded by the National Institutes of Health and the International Tree Nut Council Nutrition Research and Education Foundation.

Review Date: 
November 18, 2013