A new study has found that eating nuts can significantly lower the risk of death for all causes.
The study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, looked at two large, long-term study databases from the Nurses' Health Study and the Health Professionals' Follow-up Study. By parsing data on over 100,000 men and women taken between 1980 and 2010, doctors found that even just a "handful" of nuts could reduce the risk of death from any cause by 20% over the course of those 30 years.
"The most obvious benefit was a reduction of 29 percent in deaths from heart disease - the major killer of people in America," said Dr. Charles Fuchs, senior author of the study and the director of the Gastrointestinal Cancer Center at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. "But we also saw a significant reduction - 11 percent - in the risk of dying from cancer."
The study found that frequent nut-eaters were also likely to exercise more, use vitamins, and eat more vegetables. It also found that they were less likely to smoke, but more likely to drink alcohol. Despite these findings, the study's authors were able to control for these factors and single out nuts as a major factor in decreasing death risk.
Specific nuts were not able to be singled out for the study, though researchers found no difference between the effect of peanuts and tree nuts.
The study also found a correlation between the amount of nuts consumed and lowered death risk. Subjects who consumed nuts once per week saw an 11% reduction in mortality risk. Those who consumed nuts five to six times per week saw a 15% reduction and those who consumed nuts on at least a daily basis saw the full 20% drop in death risks.
"In all these analyses, the more nuts people ate, the less likely they were to die over the 30-year follow-up period," said Dr. Ying Bao, first author of the study and a researcher at Brigham and Women's Hospital.