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Eating Nuts Links to Lower Cancer Mortality

cartoon neighborhoodNew research, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, suggests that people who eat nuts at least five times per week have a lower risk of dying from cancer and from any cause than people who do not include nuts in their diet.

Those who included at least one ounce of nuts daily (a small handful) had the lowest rate of mortality from all causes, compared to those who ate none.

This study is a correlation, meaning it does not prove cause-and-effect. People who eat nuts regularly more are often more likely to have healthier habits and it’s possible that played a role in the link. The researchers attempted to statistically rule these other factors out, as well as factors that play a role in death, including weight, physical activity, high cholesterol, alcohol intake, other aspects of diet and specific health conditions.

Study researchers analyzed 30 years of food questionnaires from about 76,000 women in the Nurses Health Study (NHS) and 42,000 men in the Health Professionals Follow-up Study (HPFS). They compared participants’ nut consumption (never to at least seven times per week) to causes of death. Participants were asked about how often they consumed nuts at the start of the study then every two to four years.

For cancer, those who consumed nuts at least five times per week had an 11 percent lower risk of dying from the disease during the course of the study.

Nuts contain protein, fiber and a variety of vitamins and minerals. It is possible that nuts provide more satiety, which may help with weight control. All kinds of tree nuts (walnuts, almonds, pistachios, e.g.) and peanuts were included in the analysis. One ounce of nuts is about 23 almonds, 18 cashews, 14 walnut halves, 49 pistachios and 19 pecan halves.

The study was funded by grants from the National Institutes of Health and the International Tree Nut Council Nutrition Research and Education Foundation.

Ying Bao, M.D., Sc.D., Jiali Han, Ph.D., Frank B. Hu, M.D., Ph.D., Edward L. Giovannucci, M.D., Sc.D., Meir J. Stampfer, M.D., Dr.P.H., Walter C. Willett, M.D., Dr.P.H., and Charles S. Fuchs, M.D., M.P.H. "Association of Nut Consumption with Total and Cause-Specific Mortality." N Engl J Med 2013; 369:2001-2011.

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