How NUTS could be nature’s statin

Eating nuts and peanuts reduces the risk of suffering a heart attack or stroke, a new study claims. Researchers found they were linked with a reduced risk of death from heart disease among people on low incomes. And they believe their findings suggest peanuts may be a cost-effective measure to improve cardiovascular health because they are so cheap. However experts cautioned today that salt-covered nuts would not have the same health benefits.

Nuts are rich in nutrients and peanuts, although classified as legumes, have nutrients similar to tree nuts. The new study, led by Dr Xiao-Ou Shu, of the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, Tennessee, analysed various groups of people. One involved 72,000 low-income black and white men and women living in the US, the other 134,000 men and women living in Shanghai, China.

In both groups, men ate more peanuts than women. In the US group, about half of the nuts consumed were peanuts, and in the Chinese group only peanut consumption was assessed.

Catherine Collins, Principal Dietitian at St George’s Hospital NHS Trust, said:

‘Research over the past few years has shown heart-health benefits of including nuts and legumes (like peanuts) as part of a varied diet.

‘This is probably because nuts and peanuts contribute a valuable source of protein, dietary fibres, healthy fats, vitamins B1, B6, folic acid, vitamin E, magnesium and zinc to the diet.

Although almost half the weight of a peanut is fat (48%), the majority is of the heart-healthy monounsaturated and polyunsaturated types.

Studies where nuts have been added to the diet (such as the European PREDIMED study), and long-term population studies have consistently shown a reduction in death from heart disease when nuts and legumes are included in the diet.

The researchers found that across the board, eating nuts reduced the risk of death from heart disease.This was regardless of gender, race, BMI, smoking, alcohol consumption and conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity. In the US, the highest consumption resulted in a risk reduction of 21 per cent.

In the Chinese group, it was 17 per cent. Dr Shu said: ‘We observed no significant associations between nut or peanut consumption and risk of death due to cancer and diabetes.’She added the findings highlight the large public health impact of nut or peanut consumption in lowering deaths from heart disease – especially given their affordability.

The research was published in JAMA Internal Medicine. Dr Mitchell Katz, deputy editor of the journal, added: ‘Of course, peanuts are not really nuts – they are legumes since they grow in bushes, unlike tree nuts.

‘But who cares if they help us to live longer at an affordable price?’

However experts have cautioned that people should not start eating ‘large quantities’ of nuts and peanuts in light of the research.

Commenting on the findings, Professor Peter Weissberg, medical director at the British Heart Foundation, said: ‘This large study found that death rates from heart attacks were lower in people who eat nuts, particularly peanuts, than in those who don’t.

‘However, the data do not show that the more peanuts you eat the lower the risk of a fatal heart attack, so people should not start eating large quantities of nuts, particularly salted nuts, in the hope that it will protect them from heart disease.

‘The results suggest that including a modest amount of nuts as part of a well-balanced diet may be of benefit.’

Provided By ANNA HODGEKISS

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