Were you ever told not to eat too many nuts because they are so high in calories and fat? Perhaps instead you have heard that nut consumption is associated with longer life. Do people who eat nuts really live longer?
Numerous studies have linked diets rich in nuts to lower risk of cardiovascular disease and many cancers (BMC Medicine, Dec. 5, 2016). About half of the peanuts eaten in the U.S. are in the form of peanut butter, however. Previous studies suggest that peanut better lovers may not fare as well as people who eat nuts (Internationnal Journal of Epidemiology, June 2015).
A Study of People Who Eat Nuts and Peanut Butter:
Researchers wanted to confirm whether peanut butter is as beneficial as eating nuts. They collected data from the National Institutes of Health-AARP Health Study (Nutrients, July 2, 2019). It included more than half a million volunteers between 50 and 71 years of age. The participants filled out food frequency questionnaires.
What the Scientists Found:
During about 15 years of follow-up, 64,464 participants died. Those who ate more nuts were significantly less likely to die of cancer, heart disease, respiratory complications and infections. Peanut butter, on the other hand, was not protective.
This was not an experiment (also called an interventional study). Instead, it was an observational study, connecting people’s usual diet with what happened to them. As such, it does not provide a clear indication of cause and effect. There may be other differences between people who eat nuts and those who eat peanut butter that would help explain why nut lovers seem to live longer. Nonetheless, these findings suggest that you shouldn’t feel guilty about enjoying a handful of nuts a few times a week.