Ever since The New England Journal of Medicine published a study showing the Mediterranean diet, supplemented with extra-virgin olive oil or nuts, reduced the risk of major cardiovascular disease in high risk individuals by 30%, the diet has become the rage of foodies and health nuts everywhere. Several studies have previously looked at just nuts and their beneficial role in reducing inflammation, hyperglycemia, and body fat, while reducing the risk of type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, colon cancer, high blood pressure, and other chronic diseases.
Then, last week, the same journal published a new study that specifically looked at the role of regular nut consumption on death rates. James Hamblin, M.D. cracks open the data:
They found, as Dr.Jeffrey Drazen put it, “a significant reduction in mortality associated with nut consumption.”
“There is potentially a 20 percent improvement in mortality,” said Dr. Charles Fuchs of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, “which is quite striking.”
Eating nuts meant about a handful (an ounce) of any type of nut, seven or more times per week, for years. People who ate more nuts were not only less likely to die during the 30-year period, but also, Drazen said, “leaner, less likely to smoke; more likely to exercise, eat more fruits and vegetables, and drink more alcohol.” Yes, more alcohol. Even controlling for those associations, the nut-eating sect apparently enjoyed significantly fewer cancers, strokes, infections, and cases of kidney failure and cardiac disease.
Just a small handful of nuts a day seems to produce profound health benefits. Remember that nuts are a special choking hazard for all people, especially young ones. Peanut butter (the real kind!) should work just as well.