I am struggling for a clever way to introduce a New England Journal of Medicine article on the health benefits of nuts. Nuts for nuts? Nutty study? Since this is a family blog, I won’t venture into more riskee territory.
Anyway, nuts are a nutrient-rich food, full of fiber, vitamins, minerals, and unsaturated fatty acids. And a recent randomized trial showed that eating a Mediterranean diet supplemented with extra-virgin olive oil or nuts reduced the incidence of heart attacks and strokes in people at risk for these health problems.
Now an analysis of two studies sheds further light on the health benefits of nuts. For decades, researchers have gathered data on nurses and other health care workers. The investigators separated the participants into groups based on their nut consumption, and looked at how their outcomes compared to those who didn’t eat nuts. “They found that those who ate nuts the most frequently – at least seven times a week – had a 20 percent lower risk of dying than those who didn’t eat nuts at all. . . Nut eaters were less likely to die from heart disease, cancer or respiratory diseases. The type of nut didn’t seem to matter – peanuts were just as good as tree nuts, a category that includes cashews and almonds.”
The investigators then conducted statistical analyses to determine whether it was eating nuts – rather than some other characteristic of those who eat nuts – that was directly associated with decreased mortality. Even after making these adjustments, the association between nut intake and longer life held up.
The authors of this study acknowledge that because it is observational, it cannot prove that nuts will make you live longer. We will need a different king of study–a randomized controlled trial–to do that. In the mean time, though, it surely can’t hurt to add some almonds, pecans, cashews, and other tasty nutty treats to your plate.
Here is a link to a fun little video explaining the study recently published in the New England Journal of Medicine.