Previous studies have shown that increased nut consumption may be linked to reduced mortality risk however these studies had only been conducted in people of European descent who were mainly of high socioeconomic status (SES).  The question of whether this effect can be generalized to people of other racial/ethnic backgrounds or to Americans of low SES is tackled in a new study published in JAMA Internal Medicine.

For this study, three large cohorts were examined: 71,764 U.S. residents, both African and European descent (primarily low SES) who were participants in the Southern Community Cohort Study (SCCS); and two other cohorts comprised of 134,265 participants in the Shanghai Women’s Health Study (SWHS) and the Shanghai Men’s Health Study (SMHS) in Shanghai, China. Food frequency questionnaires were used to assess nut consumption; in SCCS, peanuts accounted for about 50% of nuts consumed in this region. Information on peanut consumption was also assessed in SWHS and SMHS since tree nut consumption was low.

In all three cohorts, nut consumption was inversely associated with total mortality risk (all P<0.001); the highest quintile of nut intake was associated with a 21% reduction in mortality while the lowest quintile of nut intake was associated with a 17% reduction (predominantly driven by a reduction in cardiovascular disease mortality). This inverse relationship was seen in both men and women and across all racial/ethnic groups; BMI, smoking, alcohol consumption, and metabolic conditions did not modify the outcome. No significant associations were found between nut consumption and risk of death due to diabetes or cancer in this study. 

The authors conclude that nut consumption is associated with reduced total mortality risk and death due to cardiovascular disease, particularly ischemic heart disease, across different ethnic groups and people of low SES. Given these findings and the general affordability of peanuts, consumption of nuts may be considered a cost-effective measure to improve heart health.

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