Large study links nut consumption to reduced death rate

November 20, 2013, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute
Credit: Lawrencekhoo / Wikipedia.

In the largest study of its kind, people who ate a daily handful of nuts were 20 percent less likely to die from any cause over a 30-year period than were those who didn't consume nuts, say scientists from Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Brigham and Women's Hospital, and the Harvard School of Public Health.

Their report, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, contains further good news. The regular nut-eaters were found to be more slender than those who didn't eat , a finding that should alleviate the widespread worry that eating a lot of nuts will lead to overweight.

The report also looked at the on specific causes of death.

"The most obvious benefit was a reduction of 29 percent in deaths from – the major killer of people in America," said Charles S. Fuchs, MD, MPH, director of the Gastrointestinal Cancer Center at Dana-Farber, who is the senior author of the report. "But we also saw a significant reduction – 11 percent – in the risk of dying from cancer," added Fuchs, who is also affiliated with the Channing Division of Network Medicine at Brigham and Women's.

Whether any specific type or types of nuts were crucial to the protective effect couldn't be determined. However, the reduction in mortality was similar both for peanuts and for "" – walnuts, hazelnuts, almonds, Brazil nuts, cashews, macadamias, pecans, cashews, pistachios and .

Several previous studies have found an association between increasing nut consumption and a lower risk of diseases such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, colon cancer, gallstones, and diverticulitis. Higher nut consumption also has been linked to reductions in cholesterol levels, oxidative stress, inflammation, adiposity, and insulin resistance. Some small studies have linked increased nuts in the diet to lower total mortality in specific populations. But no previous research studies had looked in such detail at various levels of nut consumption and their effects on overall mortality in a large population that was followed for over 30 years.

A study by Dr. Charles Fuchs and other researchers links nut consumption to reduced death rate Credit: Dana-Farber Cancer Institute

For the new research, the scientists were able to tap databases from two well-known ongoing observational studies that collect data on diet and other lifestyle factors and various health outcomes. The Nurses' Health Study provided data on 76,464 women between 1980 and 2010, and the Health Professionals' Follow-up Study yielded data on 42,498 men from 1986 to 2010. Participants in the studies filled out detailed food questionnaires every two to four years. With each food questionnaire, participants were asked to estimate how often they consumed nuts in a serving size of one ounce. A typical small packet of peanuts from a vending machine contains one ounce.

Sophisticated data analysis methods were used to rule out other factors that might have accounted for the mortality benefits. For example, the researchers found that individuals who ate more nuts were leaner, less likely to smoke, and more likely to exercise, use multivitamin supplements, consume more fruits and vegetables, and drink more alcohol. However, analysis was able to isolate the association between nuts and mortality independently of these other factors.

"In all these analyses, the more nuts people ate, the less likely they were to die over the 30-year follow-up period," explained Ying Bao, MD, ScD, of Brigham and Women's Hospital, first author of the report. Those who ate nuts less than once a week had a seven percent reduction in mortality; once a week, 11 percent reduction; two to four times per week, 13 percent reduction; five to six times per week, 15 percent reduction, and seven or more times a week, a 20 percent reduction in death rate.

The authors do note that this large study cannot definitively prove cause and effect; nonetheless, the findings are strongly consistent with "a wealth of existing observational and clinical trial data to support health benefits of nut consumption on many chronic diseases." In fact, based on previous studies, the US Food and Drug Administration concluded in 2003 that eating 1.5 ounces per day of most nuts "may reduce the risk of heart disease."

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1.5 / 5 (15) Nov 20, 2013
Yet another one of thousands of correlations between what "genetic lottery" winners with great health and high IQ eat much more of than junk food fed average folk. John Ray's Food & Health Skeptic blog to the epidemiological rescue:

Mixed nuts? RICH FOLK FOOD!
4.6 / 5 (10) Nov 20, 2013
So what do the nice men in white coats give you to eat Nik?
2.9 / 5 (9) Nov 20, 2013
They give NikkieTard teething biscuits and milk.

He pretends they are girl guide cookies.

One wonders how many desk lamps NikkieTard has to make and sell before he can afford to buy a bag of Rich Folk Food, Mixed Nuts.

I give NikkieTard an A for at least trying to live and independent life away from the hospital.
1 / 5 (11) Nov 20, 2013
Until my doctors rule out Wilson's and/or some other Copper build-up related illness, I can't eat nuts. They are higher than average in Copper.

I'm also not supposed to eat Mushrooms, Chocolate, or Shellfish either.

Genetic Lottery indeed.

Had I been born to a healthy, wealthy, and "wise" family, I might be a totally different person. Well, actually I would be a totally different person, but that's beside the point.

Instead, I have a family where all my elders have heart trouble, blood pressure trouble, diabetes, nerve problems, and history of skin and brain cancer.

I guess it won't matter too much if it turns out I have something like Wilsons. At least that is treatable with pills or injections, apparently.

Anyway, other family members eat or did eat nuts all the time. It didn't magically increase their life expectancy, because my grandparents on my mother's side of the family died about 11 years and 20 years respectively younger than average.
1.8 / 5 (8) Nov 21, 2013
Lurker, check out the documentary "Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead". Eye-opening and simple way to let the body attain optimal health, even when one isn't predisposed to great health, or suffers from something that doctors say is chronic. This is not a spam advertisement. It's a doc that everybody should watch if they are interested in what to eat to be healthy, or reset the health point of a body.
5 / 5 (2) Nov 21, 2013
Anyway, other family members eat or did eat nuts all the time. It didn't magically increase their life expectancy, because my grandparents on my mother's side of the family died about 11 years and 20 years respectively younger than average.

Anecdote and small sample size does not science make. Your family history is unfortunately, and I'm sorry for your health difficulties. I have a number of my own. The idea presented here is not, however, that nuts are a miracle cure and *everyone* who eats them will live longer. The idea is that *on average* nut-eaters die less often of certain things (and generally, within the time period) ... I am 100% certain that there are any number of individuals within their data that ate lots of nuts and died of this, that or the other. But as compared to not eating nuts, the overall population did better when they ate nuts. So, listen to your doctor, as always, but for *most* people eating more nuts is a win-win.
not rated yet Nov 21, 2013
What's up with the comments system not showing quotes in different font? I triple-checked that I didn't somehow clobber the syntax. Maybe browser related (Chrome)? I could swear it used tow work.
not rated yet Nov 22, 2013
What's up with the comments system not showing quotes in different font? I triple-checked that I didn't somehow clobber the syntax. Maybe browser related (Chrome)? I could swear it used tow work.

Nah.., it appears to be something related to the way medical express seems to be set up now. The quotes system works just find in the sciences section and I use a different browser to you, yet I have the same problem. You can try sending a comment to the administrators about it. If you can get them to fix it, you will probably be luckier than I was, a while ago. You never know. Otherwise, just get in the habit of adding regular quotation marks in the medical section.
Cheers, DH66
1 / 5 (8) Nov 22, 2013
String theorist Lubos Motl has a full essay about this study as an example of correlation falacy:

"Healthier people love to eat nuts more than the less healthy people do."

Good luck understanding the rest of his blog though, unless you're one in a billion.
1 / 5 (7) Nov 22, 2013
Peanuts are O.K. but are really legumes, so I order quite cheap 25 pound boxes of shelled/roasted/salted pumpkin seeds (pepitas) from Beyond snacks, they work in stir fry or dehydrated nut dough crackers, etc.
not rated yet Nov 22, 2013
So what do the nice men in white coats give you to eat Nik?

Sorry guys, picked a quote at random.
Just testing whether the quotations issue had been fixed, as I did manage to contact the mods about it. It appears to be, but the editor wouldn't let me cancel the post.
Regards, DH66

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