In the largest study ever done on the relationship between eating nuts and longevity, researchers from Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School looked at nut consumption and deaths from all causes among 76,464 women participating in the Nurse's Health Study and 42,498 men involved in the Health Professionals Follow-up Study,as reported by Time magazine.
They asked the participants how "nutty" their diets were -- including how many almonds, cashews, hazelnuts, macadamias, pecans, pine nuts, pistachios and walnuts they typically ate. They found that those who reported regularly consuming nuts were less likely to die from a variety of diseases -- most significantly cancer, heart disease and respiratory diseases.
Overall, people who ate nuts seven or more times a week had a 20% lower death rate after four years than individuals who did not eat nuts at all. Nut eaters also tended to be healthier people: leaner, more physically active and non-smokers.
Nuts are high in unsaturated fats, protein and vitamins, as well as antioxidants that are thought to be linked to a lower risk of heart disease.
Previous studies have found similar connections between nuts and longevity, but the large size of this study gives the association more support, according to Time.
Disclaimer: The study was partially funded by the International Tree Nut Council Nutrition Research & Education Foundation, a nonprofit organization representing nine tree nut industries. However, the group played no role in the research or results, according to Maureen Ternus, executive director. It was also partially funded by the National Institutes of Health.
It's unclear exactly how many nuts it takes to extend a person's lifespan. And the researchers say the findings don't show a cause-and-effect relationship between nuts and later death, just an interesting correlation that should be explored further.
But nuts are OK with public health officials. In their recently released Dietary Guidelines for Americans, the NIH advised that adults eat about five to six ounces of protein a day, which could include nuts.
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