Squirrels may be on to something. A new study in the New England Journal of Medicine has found that the more nuts you eat, the longer you live.
Researchers studied the association between nut intake and mortality among 76,464 women in the Nurses’ Health Study (1980 – 2010) and 42,498 men in the Health Professionals Follow-up Study. They found that people who ate nuts 7 or more times per week had a 20% lower death rate over 30 years compared to people who didn’t. People who ate nuts more often were less likely to die from cancer, heart disease, or other causes. Even just occasionally eating nuts lowered the death rate by 7 percent. Results were similar whether the participants ate tree nuts, such as hazelnuts and chestnuts, or peanuts (peanuts are actually a legume.)
This is just the latest (and largest) study of the health benefits of nuts. In previous studies, nuts have been shown to help prevent heart disease and cancer, lower blood pressure and cholesterol, and improve blood sugar levels.
Before you start stuffing your cheeks like a chipmunk, it’s probably a good bet to choose dry roasted or raw nuts, avoiding added salt and oils, and stick to a handful a day. Nuts coated in layers of chocolate and sugar don’t count. Though nuts have the reputation of being fattening, the team found that “increased nut intake was associated with less weight gain.” Study participants who frequently ate nuts tended to lead a healthier lifestyle; they were leaner, less likely to smoke and more likely to exercise and eat fruit and vegetables than people who didn’t. So go nuts.
Ying Bao, M.D., Sc.D., Jiali Han, Ph.D., Frank B. Hu, M.D., Ph.D., Edward L. Giovannucci, M.D., Sc.D., Meir J. Stampfer, M.D., Dr.P.H., Walter C. Willett, M.D., Dr.P.H., and Charles S. Fuchs, M.D., M.P.H. Association of Nut Consumption with Total and Cause-Specific Mortality. N Engl J Med 2013; 369:2001-2011.