Tree Nut Consumption Associated with Reduced Total and Cause-specific Mortality
Largest Study to Date on Nut Consumption and Mortality in New England Journal of Medicine
Fresno, CA (December 18, 2013) – In a study published November 20, 2013 in the New England Journal of Medicine1, researchers looked at the association of nut consumption with total and cause-specific mortality among 76,464 women in the Nurses’ Health Study and 42,498 men in the Health Professionals Follow-up Study. Consumption of nuts, including tree nuts (such as pistachios, almonds, Brazil nuts, cashews, hazelnuts, macadamias, pecans, pine nuts, and walnuts), was inversely associated with total mortality in both men and women, independent of other predictors for death. In addition, there were significant inverse associations for deaths due to cancer, heart disease and respiratory disease.
This is the largest study to date to examine the relation between nut consumption and total mortality, and the results are consistent with previous studies, according to senior author, Charles Fuchs, MD, MPH, from the Department of Medical Oncology, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Boston, MA. “The findings from our study and others suggest a potential benefit of nut consumption for promoting health and longevity,” reported Dr. Fuchs.
Nuts contain important nutrients such as unsaturated fats, high quality protein, vitamins (i.e., vitamin E, folate and niacin) minerals (i.e., magnesium, calcium and potassium) and phytochemicals—all of which may offer cardioprotective, anticarcinogenic, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.
Previous studies have supported the disease-protective power of nuts, specifically pistachios. Studies suggest that pistachios eaten in moderation may help support healthy blood glucose levels.2 Additionally, the FDA recognizes that eating 1.5 ounces per day of most tree nuts, including pistachios, as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol may lower the risk of heart disease.3 And for weight maintenance, emerging research suggests that the actual act of opening the shell to eat a pistachio helps to slow down the eating process. The shells appear to serve as a visual cue in reducing caloric consumption. Even though fewer calories (and pistachios) are consumed, there was no difference in satisfaction.4,5
A one-ounce serving of pistachios is 49 nuts, more per serving than any other snack nut, and provides a good source of fiber (3 grams), 6 grams of protein and 11 grams of heart healthy fat all for just 160 calories.
“With the publication of this large study from Harvard University, the evidence is now very strong that daily consumption of nuts is a habit that more people should be adopting. The findings in this study are consistent with previous studies that showed similar health benefits to eating nuts. Surprisingly, the benefit is seen for prevention of diseases as different as heart disease, cancer, and respiratory disease. Also surprisingly, eating nuts does not appear to contribute to obesity, but in fact may help with weight loss. The evidence is somewhat stronger for tree nuts like pistachios, almonds, and walnuts, compared to peanuts,” says Dr. Don H. Gaede, a California based medical doctor specializing in vascular and internal medicine.
“Almost 40% of Americans take a multivitamin every day, even though there is little evidence that they are helpful to one’s health. Americans would probably be healthier if they skipped their daily multivitamin, and instead enjoyed a daily handful of nuts.”
The study was funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) with additional support from The International Tree Nut Council Nutrition Research & Education Foundation (INC NREF). The National Institutes of Health is made up of 27 different components called Institutes and Centers. Each has its own specific research agenda. All but three of these components receive their funding directly from the United States Congress, and administrate their own budgets. NIH’s mission is to seek fundamental knowledge about the nature and behavior of living systems and the application of that knowledge to enhance health, lengthen life, and reduce illness and disability.
1 Bao, Y., J. Han, F.B. Hu, E.L. Giovannucci, M.J. Stampfer, W.C. Willett, C.S. Fuchs, 2013. Association of nut consumption with total and cause-specific mortality. N Engl J Med. 369:2001-2011.
2 Kendall CWC, Josse AR, Esfahani A, Jenkins DJ. The impact of pistachio intake alone or in combination with high-carbohydrate foods on post-prandial glycemia. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2011;65(6):696-702
3 United States Food and Drug Administration, Qualified Health Claims: Nuts and Coronary Heart Disease (Docket No 02P-0505) http://www.fda.gov/Food/IngredientsPackagingLabeling/LabelingNutrition/u…
4 Honselman CS, Painter JE, Kennedy-Hagan KJ, Halvorson A, Rhodes K, Brooks TL, Skwir K. In-shell pistachio nuts reduce caloric intake compared to shelled nuts. Appetite. 2011;57:414-7.
5 Kennedy-Hagan, Painter JE, Honselman C, Halvorson A, Rhodes K, Skwir K. The effect of pistachio shells as a visual cue in reducing caloric consumption. Appetite. 2011;57(2):418-20.