The already-glowing reputation of nuts is now shining even more brightly: Researchers have linked consuming nuts with longer survival. The findings nudge nut consumption a step closer to the rarified circle of activities shown to fend off the reaper.
The study, the largest to tie nut consumption to longevity, jibes with work showing that the oils in nuts can reduce bad cholesterol and possibly inflammation. “If you take the evidence in its totality, the picture being painted by science is quite strongly that nuts improve health,” says Cyril Kendall, a nutritionist at the University of Toronto.
The researchers tapped into two long-term studies tracking the diet, health and lifestyle of nearly 119,000 female nurses and male health professionals. The studies’ databases include information on deaths during 30 years of follow-up for the women and 24 years for the men. The new analysis of survival rates accounts for differences in age, sex, race, smoking status, aspirin use, physical activity and other factors.
The scientists found little difference between eating peanuts and tree nuts, with the data suggesting “the more the better” applies to both. People eating scant amounts of nuts had barely better survival rates than people eating none. But those consuming a serving of nuts — at least 28 grams — two to four times a week were 13 percent less likely to die during the studies. Compared with those who ate no nuts, people eating nuts five or six times a week were 15 percent less likely and those chomping down seven or more servings per week were 20 percent less likely to die. Epidemiologist Ying Bao of Harvard Medical School and colleagues report the findings in the Nov. 21 New England Journal of Medicine.
Longevity seems enhanced by regular physical activity, alcohol in moderation, a diet rich in fruits and vegetables and possibly calorie restriction, studies show. Kendall says that it’s too early to add nut consumption as a stand-alone entry to that list, but nuts hold their own as part of a healthy diet.
Bao and her colleagues also explored how nuts seem to affect survival, finding that nut consumption was associated with less death due to heart disease and to some extent with cancer or respiratory disease mortality.
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