So now we know that eating peanuts can reduce the risk of heart disease, cancer, and diabetes, as well as reduce inflammation. But peanut consumption can improve your health in many other ways, too!
High Blood Pressure
One-third of Americans have high blood pressure, and many may not even know they have it. High blood pressure increases your risk of heart disease and stroke, and scientists have learned that the dietary choices we make can have an impact on blood pressure. The Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) eating plan was developed as a dietary pattern that combines nutrients that are thought to be effective at reducing blood pressure. And studies show it works—people sticking to the diet substantially lower their blood pressure.
When following the DASH diet, nuts, including peanuts and peanut butter, plus seeds and beans, are eaten four to five times per week. Peanuts and peanut butter contain magnesium, potassium, fiber, arginine, and many bioactive components, each of which could be contributing to lowering blood pressure.
Peanuts also contribute healthy plant protein and healthy unsaturated fats to the diet in addition to micronutrients and bioactives.
When part of a healthy diet, peanuts, peanut butter, and peanut oil, which are high in unsaturated fats, can help you keep this silent condition in check!
In a 2012 study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, researchers found that people who consume foods rich in magnesium have fewer strokes. An intake of 100 milligrams of magnesium per day, which can be consumed in just 2 ounces of peanuts, was associated with a 9% decrease in risk of ischemic stroke. Compared to other nuts, those who consume peanuts and peanut butter achieve higher Recommended Daily Allowances (RDA’s) for many hard-to-get nutrients, including magnesium.
Additionally, the Danish Case-Cohort Study followed over 57,000 participants for 13 years to examine the relationship between linoleic acid (the main omega-6 fat found in peanuts) in adipose (or fat) tissue and risk of stroke. Results published in 2018 found that higher concentrations of linoleic acid in adipose tissue was associated with a 22% decreased risk for stroke.
Gallstone disease occurs when your gallbladder doesn’t empty correctly, leaving too much cholesterol or bilirubin in your bile. Opinions vary as to why the prevalence of gallbladder disease has increased, and it is probably due to many reasons. One of the risk factors for gallstone disease is being overweight or obese, which has become more common over the last few decades in the U.S. Another risk factor is having high triglyceride levels or low “good” HDL cholesterol levels.
Little attention has been paid to how diet affects this disease, but what we eat could very well be having an impact. One study that looked at over 80,000 women from the Nurses’ Health Study found that those who ate peanuts and peanut butter five times a week or more reduced their risk of gallbladder disease by as much as 25%.
Peanuts are known to have beneficial effects on cholesterol levels, primarily due to their unsaturated fats. As a complex plant food, however, peanuts contain additional nutrients and bioactive compounds that are also likely to be contributing to this effect. Peanuts are certainly acting to help optimize how our bodies work and can improve our health when we eat a small amount daily.
Peanuts are an excellent source of niacin and a good source of vitamin E, two nutrients that have been shown to protect against Alzheimer’s disease and age-related cognitive decline.
One study showed that, in almost 4,000 people 65 years or older, niacin from food slowed the rate of cognitive decline. In another study, 815 people over the age of 65 without Alzheimer’s disease were followed for almost four years. It was found that those who ate the most vitamin E from foods lowered their risk of Alzheimer’s by 70%.
In fact, when researchers devised the MIND diet, a diet tailored to protecting the brain from cognitive decline, they styled it after the Mediterranean and DASH diets which both utilize peanuts. In 2015, two studies on the effects of the MIND diet showed that high adherence was associated with slower age-related cognitive decline compared to low adherence. Results also showed that adherence to the diet lowered Alzheimer’s Disease risk by up to 53%.
A 2018 study, published in the Journal of Nutrition, Health and Aging, examined nut consumption in nearly 5,000 Chinese adults ages 55 or older from 1991 to 2006. Peanuts accounted for 84.2% of all nuts consumed throughout the study. Higher cognitive scores were associated with nut consumption, with intake of 10g per day (or one serving) associated with a 40% decreased likelihood of poor cognitive function.
Peanuts eaten with their skins may also improve brain health. A 2016 randomized controlled trial (feeding study) published in Nutritional Neuroscience found that peanuts eaten with their skins improved both cerebrovascular and cognitive function in men and women. The authors of the study noted that these results are likely due to the bioactive compounds in peanuts.
In addition to vitamin E and niacin, peanuts also contain resveratrol, another bioactive component recognized as being beneficial in Alzheimer’s disease and other nerve degeneration diseases.
And if that’s not enough to improve your mood, this might: in 2014, researchers looked at a prominent antioxidant found in peanuts called p-coumaric acid. They discovered that it was able to target the neurotransmitter GABA, which regulates mood, stress and anxiety, and subsequently reduce anxiety and stress. Although this study was done in mice, authors noted that p-coumaric acid may have similar effects for reducing stress in humans as one of the leading anxiety-reducing drugs, Diazepam.
The many protective components in peanuts are just beginning to be understood. For the time being, we know that consuming a small serving of peanuts daily may help minimize the damaging effects of aging.
One of the most impactful measures in research is mortality, also known as death rate. When certain behaviors or practices are positively or negatively linked to mortality, it signifies that they should or should not be continued. For example, smoking is associated with death from certain cancers, which is why doctors recommend kicking the habit.
Dietary factors have also been shown to have effects on mortality. In fact, in several population groups (Caucasians, African Americans, and the elderly), studies show that when people eat more nuts, including peanuts, their risk of mortality from all causes decreases. This benefit is especially pronounced for those who consume peanuts almost every day: when people eat a small serving of peanuts more than five times per week, the risk of mortality is reduced by more than 40%, when compared to those who eat peanuts less frequently.
Several studies have shown that eating nuts, peanuts, and peanut butter impact heart disease in particular. A study of Seventh-Day Adventists in 1992 found that eating more nuts and peanuts significantly decreased the risk of death from ischemic heart disease. Further, the 1996 Iowa Women’s Health Study showed that increasing consumption of nuts, peanuts, and peanut butter reduced the risk of death due to coronary heart disease.
Data from the Netherlands Cohort study showed that peanut/tree nut consumption was associated with a significantly reduced mortality risk. Participants who consumed 10g/day or more experienced a 17% reduced risk of cardiovascular disease mortality and a 44% reduced risk of dying from neurodegenerative diseases when compared with those who consumed none.
A 2017 article published in Food & Function reviewed 18 prospective studies on the relationship between peanut/tree nut consumption and mortality. Researchers found that even at relatively low levels of consumption, peanuts and tree nuts were associated with reduced risk of death from all causes—with the strongest reduction for coronary heart disease mortality.
The benefits of peanuts have also been seen in those from different ethnic backgrounds. Utilizing data from 3 large-scale studies, researchers analyzed the effects of peanut consumption in Whites and African-Americans from the Southeastern US, as well as Asian men and women. Nut/peanut consumption were associated with a significantly reduced risk of mortality across all groups. This time, however, the strongest associations were seen between peanut consumption and reduced risk of cardiovascular disease mortality.
So the next time you’re enjoying a classic peanut butter sandwich, a handful of peanuts on a hiking trail, or experimenting with peanut oil or peanut flour in the kitchen, remember: you’re not just enjoying great taste, you could also be promoting your longevity!
Appel LJ, Moore TJ, Obarzanek E, Vollmer WM, Svetkey LP, Sacks FM, Bray GA, Vogt TM, Cutler JA, Windhauser MM, Lin PH, Karanja N. A clinical trial of the effects of dietary patterns on blood pressure. DASH Collaborative Research Group. N Engl J Med. 1997 Apr 17;336(16):1117-24. PubMed PMID: 9099655.
Venø, S. K., Bork, C. S., Jakobsen, M. U., Lundbye-Christensen, S., Bach, F. W., Overvad, K., & Schmidt, E. B. (2018). Linoleic Acid in Adipose Tissue and Development of Ischemic Stroke: A Danish Case-Cohort Study. Journal of the American Heart Association, 7(13), e009820. doi:10.1161/JAHA.118.009820
Susanna C Larsson, Nicola Orsini, Alicja Wolk; Dietary magnesium intake and risk of stroke: a meta-analysis of prospective studies, The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Volume 95, Issue 2, 1 February 2012, Pages 362–366, https://doi.org/10.3945/ajcn.111.022376
Tsai CJ, Leitzmann MF, Hu FB, Willett WC, Giovannucci EL. A prospective cohort study of nut consumption and the risk of gallstone disease in men. Am J Epidemiol. 2004 Nov 15;160(10):961-8. PubMed PMID: 15522852.
Li, M. & Shi, Z. A Prospective Association of Nut Consumption with Cognitive Function in Chinese Adults Aged 55+_ China Health and Nutrition Survey. J Nutr Health Aging. 2018. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12603-018-1122-5. Epub 2018 October 29.
Barbour JA, Howe PRC, Buckley JD, Bryan J, Coates AM. Cerebrovascular and cognitive benefits of high-oleic peanut consumption in healthy overweight middle-aged adults. Nutr Neurosci. 2017 Dec;20(10):555-562. doi: 10.1080/1028415X.2016.1204744. Epub 2016 Jul 7. PubMed PMID: 27386745.
Morris MC, Tangney CC, Wang Y, Sacks FM, Bennett DA, Aggarwal NT. MIND diet associated with reduced incidence of Alzheimer’s disease. Alzheimers Dement. 2015 Sep;11(9):1007-14. doi: 10.1016/j.jalz.2014.11.009. Epub 2015 Feb 11. PubMed PMID: 25681666; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC4532650.
Morris MC, Tangney CC, Wang Y, Sacks FM, Barnes LL, Bennett DA, Aggarwal NT. MIND diet slows cognitive decline with aging. Alzheimers Dement. 2015 Sep;11(9):1015-22. doi: 10.1016/j.jalz.2015.04.011. Epub 2015 Jun 15. PubMed PMID: 26086182; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC4581900.
Scheepens A, Bisson JF, Skinner M. p-Coumaric acid activates the GABA-A receptor in vitro and is orally anxiolytic in vivo. Phytother Res. 2014 Feb;28(2):207-11. doi: 10.1002/ptr.4968. Epub 2013 Mar 26. PubMed PMID: 23533066.
Chen J, Zhou Y, Mueller-Steiner S, Chen LF, Kwon H, Yi S, Mucke L, Gan L. SIRT1 protects against microglia-dependent amyloid-beta toxicity through inhibiting NF-kappaB signaling. J Biol Chem. 2005 Dec 2;280(48):40364-74. Epub 2005 Sep 23. PubMed PMID: 16183991.
Morris MC, Evans DA, Bienias JL, Scherr PA, Tangney CC, Hebert LE, Bennett DA, Wilson RS, Aggarwal N. Dietary niacin and the risk of incident Alzheimer’s disease and of cognitive decline. J Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry. 2004 Aug;75(8):1093-9. PubMed PMID: 15258207; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC1739176.
Chen GC, Zhang R, Martínez-González MA, Zhang ZL, Bonaccio M, van Dam RM, Qin LQ. Nut consumption in relation to all-cause and cause-specific mortality: a meta-analysis 18 prospective studies. Food Funct. 2017 Nov 15;8(11):3893-3905. doi: 10.1039/c7fo00915a. Review. PubMed PMID: 28875220.
Luu HN, Blot WJ, Xiang YB, Cai H, Hargreaves MK, Li H, Yang G, Signorello L, Gao YT, Zheng W, Shu XO. Prospective evaluation of the association of nut/peanut consumption with total and cause-specific mortality. JAMA Intern Med. 2015 May;175(5):755-66. doi: 10.1001/jamainternmed.2014.8347. Erratum in: JAMA Intern Med. 2016 Aug 1;176(8):1236. PubMed PMID: 25730101; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC4474488.
van den Brandt PA, Schouten LJ. Relationship of tree nut, peanut and peanut butter intake with total and cause-specific mortality: a cohort study and meta-analysis. Int J Epidemiol. 2015 Jun;44(3):1038-49. doi: 10.1093/ije/dyv039. Epub 2015 Jun 11. PubMed PMID: 26066329.
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;157(19):2249–2258.
Kushi LH, Folsom AR, Prineas RJ, Mink PJ, Wu Y, Bostick RM. Dietary antioxidant vitamins and death from coronary heart disease in postmenopausal women. N Engl J Med.1996;334(18):1156–1162.
Fraser GE, Sabaté J, Beeson WL, Strahan TM. A possible protective effect of nut consumption on risk of coronary heart disease. The Adventist Health Study. Arch Intern Med. 1992 Jul;152(7):1416-24. PubMed PMID: 1627021.