If you’re looking for a simple way to lower your risk of dying from a heart attack, consider eating peanuts. Researchers at Vanderbilt University and the Shanghai Cancer Institute examined the association of nut consumption with mortality among low-income and racially diverse populations and found that intake of peanuts was associated with fewer deaths, especially from heart disease.
While research has previously linked nut consumption with lower mortality, those studies focused mainly on higher-income, White populations. This study was the first to discover that all races – Blacks, Whites, and Asians alike – could potentially increase heart health by eating nuts and peanuts.
This study was based on three large on-going cohort studies. Participants included over 70,000 Americans of African and European descent from the Southern Community Cohort Study (SCCS), who were mostly low-income, and over 130,000 Chinese from the Shanghai Women’s Health Study (SWHS) and the Shanghai Men’s Health Study (SMHS). Information on nut consumption was collected by structured questionnaires at the baseline survey. For participants in the SCCS, deaths were determined by linking with the National Death Index and Social Security Administration mortality files, and for participants in the SWHS/SMHS, by linking with the Shanghai Vital Statistics Registry and by conducting home visits. In total, over 14,000 deaths were identified, with a median follow-up of 5.4 years in the SCCS, 6.5 years in the SMHS, and 12.2 years in the SWHS.
Peanut consumption was associated with decreased total mortality, particularly cardiovascular mortality (i.e., 17-21 percent reduction in total mortality, and 23-38 percent reduction in cardiovascular mortality for the highest quartile intake group compared to the lowest quartile group) across all three racial/ethnic groups, among both men and women, and among individuals from low-SES groups. Because peanuts are both widely available and generally affordable, this study suggests that peanut consumption may offer a simple and cost-effective measure to improve CVD health. Dr. William Blot, associate director for cancer prevention, control and population-based research at the Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center (VICC) and a co-author of the study, stated that “the data arise from observational epidemiologic studies, and not randomized clinical trials, and thus we cannot be sure that peanuts per se were responsible for the reduced mortality observed.” He did note that “the findings from this new study, however, reinforce earlier research suggesting health benefits from eating nuts, and thus are quite encouraging.”
The study was published March 2 in JAMA Internal Medicine. Senior author was Dr. Xiao-Ou Shu, associate director for global health at the VICC, and professor of medicine in the department of epidemiology at Vanderbilt University.