Major Study Says Nuts are Best Replacement for Red Meat to Reduce Mortality

Mar 13, 2012

A major new study, “Red Meat Consumption and Mortality” concludes that red meat is associated with a thirteen percent increased risk of death and substitution of other healthy protein sources for red meat lowers mortality risk, with nuts being the top choice. Over half the nuts eaten in the US are peanuts and they have more protein than any other nut. The study followed more than 120,000 people over 28 years. It was published online in the ARCHIVES of INTERNAL MEDICINE.

The Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) study shows that replacing one serving of red meat with one serving of nuts reduces mortality risk by 19%. Other healthful protein sources follow on the list: 14% for poultry and whole grains, 10% for legumes and low fat dairy, and 7% for fish.

Senior author Frank Hu, professor of nutrition and epidemiology at HSPH said, “This study provides clear evidence that regular consumption of red meat, especially processed meat, contributes substantially to premature death.” Processed meats that contain nitrates such as salami, hot dogs and bacon were in the highest risk group of foods.

Hu confirmed the good news that, “choosing more healthful sources of protein in place of red meat can confer significant health benefits by reducing chronic disease morbidity and mortality.” The latest scientific report of the US Dietary Guidelines recommends increasing intake of plant proteins to improve health as well.

Numerous studies have shown that eating peanuts and peanut butter daily can cut the risk of heart disease in half. One of the keys seems to be eating them five or more times each week. Diabetes risk can also be reduced.

With lots of nut and legume choices (peanuts are, technically, a legume), Americans are increasingly choosing peanuts and peanut butter. According to USDA data, peanuts account for about half of all nuts eaten in the US and, when counted together, peanuts and peanut butter are 67% of the nuts eaten in the US. Consumer data highlights taste, health benefits, convenience, and affordability as the reason.

The Peanut Institute is a non-profit organization that supports nutrition research and develops educational programs to encourage healthful lifestyles.