A new Dutch study discovers that eating a particular amount of nuts could help lower the risk of cancer and other diseases associated with early death. Although studies in the past showed relationships between nuts and cardiovascular status, this is the first time that a research focusing on specific types of nuts and health conditions were conducted.

The scientists from the Maastricht University in Holland performed the study by investigating the data from the ongoing Netherlands Cohort Study that started in 1986. The nut-eating habits of 120,000 Dutch study subjects aged 55-69 were investigated by the researchers. Among the information asked are frequency and amount of tree nut, peanut and peanut butter intake. The research team then studied the data collated alongside mortality rates since 1986, taking into account the general and specific causes of deaths.

The study published in the International Journal of Epidemiology shows that individuals who ate about 10-15 grams of nuts or peanuts daily have a 23 percent decreased risk of death due to diabetes, respiratory diseases, cancer and neurodegenerative disorders. The scientists also found that the population with the decreased risk are younger, have a higher level of educational degree, consume more vegetables and fruits, take supplements, drink more alcohol and are hypertensive.

"It was remarkable that substantially lower mortality was already observed at consumption levels of 15g of nuts or peanuts on average per day," says study leader Piet A van den Brandt. "A higher intake was not associated with further reduction in mortality risk. This was also supported by a meta-analysis of previously published studies together with the Netherlands Cohort Study, in which cancer and respiratory mortality showed this same dose-response pattern."

Peanuts and tree nuts are composed of compounds including antioxidants, vitamins, fiber, and polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fatty acids - all of which can contribute to the decreased risk of deaths, he adds.

Nuts and peanuts show promising effects to mortality rates but van den Brandt warns the public about peanut butter, as this is made up of ingredients high in vegetable oils and salt, which have properties that can inhibit the positive protective effects of peanuts. Previous studies also found that peanut butter has trans fatty acids; hence, peanuts and peanut butter do not have the same content.

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