Heart Disease

Heart Disease

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States and many parts of the world. It is associated with various complications including atherosclerosis, or the build-up of plaque in the walls of arteries. This build-up can narrow the arteries and make it hard for blood to flow through, possibly leading to blood clots, heart attack or stroke.

Almost two decades ago, research pointed to the fact that frequently eating peanuts lowers the risk of heart disease. The effects are evident for people of all ages and genders, and even for individuals with various conditions, such as diabetes.

A 2018 review in Current Atherosclerosis Reports found that nut consumption doesn’t just reduce the risk of dying from heart disease; it also reduces high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and helps keep blood vessels healthy.

Another review published in Progress in Cardiovascular Diseases  included 25 years of research and showed a strong association between nut intake and decreased risk of fatal and non-fatal coronary heart disease, myocardial infarction, and sudden death. The authors noted that the unsaturated fats, l-arginine, minerals, phenolic compounds and phytosterols in nuts like peanuts appear to be of “paramount importance” for their health effects. They also highlighted that an “estimated 8.3% reduction in risk from coronary heart disease death ensues from each weekly serving (about 30g) of nuts.”

Other studies have found evidence pointing to additional components playing a part in peanuts’ heart-protective powers. Arginine, like that found in peanuts, may improve circulation and reduce heart disease risk. Peanuts are also a good source of vitamin E, which, when consumed in low quantities, can lead to benefits against coronary heart disease.

Peanuts, peanut butter, and peanut oil are filled with heart-healthy monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. These fats lower total and “bad” LDL cholesterol as well as triglyceride levels, while keeping “good” HDL cholesterol high. A controlled study of people eating diets high in either peanut oil, peanuts and peanut butter, or olive oil, all of which are high in monounsaturated fat (MUFA), showed that levels of total cholesterol, bad LDL cholesterol, and triglycerides were lowered, while good HDL cholesterol levels remained high.

Peanuts have low amounts of saturated fat, which is found in many animal products, and have no trans fat at all. A 2001 study by the U.S. Department of Agriculture found that levels of trans fat are non-detectable in all types of peanut butter—even the creamy kind.

After much scientific evidence regarding the positive health benefits of peanuts and nuts, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration released a report in 2003 that states, “Scientific evidence suggests but does not prove that eating 1.5 ounces of most nuts, such as peanuts, as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol may reduce the risk of heart disease.”

Studies also show that including peanuts in your diet as a source of protein lowers blood pressure, which can decrease heart disease risk. Peanuts have a unique mix of functional components, vitamins, and minerals that help the body prevent heart disease. Eating peanuts and peanut butter isn’t just delicious—it makes your heart happy, too!

Artery Health

Peanut protein and bioactives help keep arteries healthy

An exciting study from Penn State University demonstrates one way in which peanuts are heart healthy. This study shows that eating peanuts can help keep your arteries flexible. (Liu et al., ‘Acute Peanut Consumption Alters Postprandial Lipids and Vascular Response in Healthy Overweight or Obese Men’, Journal of Nutrition, 2017)

Key Findings:

  • First study to show that peanut protein and bioactives help keep arteries flexible
  • Peanuts prevent arteries from stiffening after a high-fat meal
  • After high-fat meals, peanuts reduce the rise in triglyceride levels by 32%

Peanuts Help Keep Arteries Flexible

The human body has up to 100,000 miles of arteries, veins and capillaries. These blood vessels carry oxygen and nutrients throughout the body and must remain flexible in order to work properly.

After a high-fat meal, levels of fat in the blood tend to rise rapidly, causing blood vessels to become stiff. Over time, this stiffening causes the heart to work harder, increasing the risk of heart attack and stroke.

In this study, participants who ate peanuts as part of a high-fat shake reduced the rise in blood triglycerides by 32% compared to a control shake. The control and peanut shakes were carefully designed to have the same fatty acid profile; therefore researchers attribute this response to peanut protein and bioactives.

Remarkably, peanuts also caused the participants’ arteries to remain open and flexible, despite the shake deriving a whopping 50% of its calories from fat.

Peanut Protein and Bioactives

Peanut protein, along with bioactives, vitamins and minerals, likely play a major role in preventing this stiffening response. Peanuts contain more protein than any other nut and more arginine than almost all other foods.

This is important because arginine is used to make nitric oxide, a vasodilator that helps keep blood vessels open and elastic.

This study is unique because it is the first to show that peanut protein and bioactives work together to keep arteries flexible after a high-fat meal.

Decades of research show that the healthy mono- and polyunsaturated fats in peanuts lower blood cholesterol and significantly reduce the risk of heart disease. Peanuts received a Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Qualified Health Claim for Heart Health in 2003, and peanuts are also included on the list of foods certified by the American Heart Association’s Heart-Check program.

Sources

Heart Disease

Bitok E, Sabaté J. Nuts and Cardiovascular Disease. Prog Cardiovasc Dis. 2018 May – Jun;61(1):33-37. doi: 10.1016/j.pcad.2018.05.003. Epub 2018 May 22. Review. PubMed PMID: 29800597.

Coates AM, Hill AM, Tan SY. Nuts and Cardiovascular Disease Prevention. Curr Atheroscler Rep. 2018 Aug 9;20(10):48. doi: 10.1007/s11883-018-0749-3. Review. PubMed PMID: 30094487.

Arya SS, Salve AR, Chauhan S. Peanuts as functional food: a review. J Food Sci Technol. 2016 Jan;53(1):31-41. doi: 10.1007/s13197-015-2007-9. Epub 2015 Sep 19. Review. PubMed PMID: 26787930; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC4711439.

Jones JB, Provost M, Keaver L, Breen C, Ludy MJ, Mattes RD. A randomized trial on the effects of flavorings on the health benefits of daily peanut consumption. Am J Clin Nutr. 2014 Mar;99(3):490-6. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.113.069401. Epub 2013 Dec 18. PubMed PMID: 24351876.

Li TY, Brennan AM, Wedick NM, Mantzoros C, Rifai N, Hu FB. Regular consumption of nuts is associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular disease in women with type 2 diabetes. J Nutr. 2009 Jul;139(7):1333-8. doi: 10.3945/jn.108.103622. Epub 2009 May 6. PubMed PMID: 19420347; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC2696988.

Sanders TH. Non-detectable levels of trans-fatty acids in peanut butter. J Agric Food Chem. 2001 May;49(5):2349-51. PubMed PMID: 11368602.

Kris-Etherton PM, Pearson TA, Wan Y, Hargrove RL, Moriarty K, Fishell V, Etherton TD. High-monounsaturated fatty acid diets lower both plasma cholesterol and triacylglycerol concentrations. Am J Clin Nutr. 1999 Dec;70(6):1009-15. PubMed PMID: 10584045.

Hu FB, Stampfer MJ, Manson JE, Rimm EB, Colditz GA, Rosner BA, Speizer FE, Hennekens CH, Willett WC. Frequent nut consumption and risk of coronary heart disease in women: prospective cohort study. BMJ. 1998 Nov 14;317(7169):1341-5. PubMed PMID: 9812929; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC28714.

Fraser GE, Shavlik DJ. Risk factors for all-cause and coronary heart disease mortality in the oldest-old. The Adventist Health Study. Arch Intern Med. 1997 Oct 27;157(19):2249-58. PubMed PMID: 9343002.

U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Labeling & Nutrition – Summary of Qualified Health Claims Subject to Enforcement Discretion. Available at: http://www.fda.gov/food/ingredientspackaginglabeling/labelingnutrition/ucm072926.htm.

Artery Health

Liu X, Hill AM, West SG, Gabauer RM, McCrea CE, Fleming JA, Kris-Etherton PM. Acute Peanut Consumption Alters Postprandial Lipids and Vascular Responses in Healthy Overweight or Obese Men. J Nutr. 2017 May;147(5):835-840. doi: 10.3945/jn.116.246785. Epub 2017 Mar 29. PubMed PMID: 28356431; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC5404215.

The Franklin Institute. The Heart: Engine of Life. Accessed 03-30-17 at: https://www.fi.edu/heart/blood-vessels.

Aune D, Keum N, Giovannucci E, Fadnes LT, Boffetta P, Greenwood DC, Tonstad S, Vatten LJ, Riboli E, Norat T. Nut consumption and risk of cardiovascular disease, total cancer, all-cause and cause-specific mortality: a systematic review and dose-response meta-analysis of prospective studies. BMC Med. 2016 Dec 5;14(1):207. Review. PubMed PMID: 27916000; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC5137221.