While most people are aware that big factors such as physical exercise and a healthy diet contribute to a long life, it can sometimes be difficult to keep these big ideas in mind while making small decisions. For example, one might not have longevity in mind when choosing a mid-afternoon snack at the office.
Luckily, eating just a handful of nuts every day could extend the length of your life, according to a new study conducted by the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Massachusetts. The study was comprehensive, containing health information from over 118,000 individuals, and it found that eating a single ounce of nuts every single day made study study participants about 20% less at risk of death over the course of the 30-year study period – at least in comparison to those who didn’t eat nuts at all.
Reduced Risk of Developing Diseases
Specifically, researchers found that those who consumed nuts daily were:
- 11% less likely to die of cancer
- 24% less likely to die of a respiratory disease
- 29% less likely to die of heart disease
To ensure the validity of their results, the researchers accounted for factors such as fruit and veggie consumption, exercise habits, weight, and other things that could have skewed the data. Dr. Charles Fuchs, one of the lead researchers behind the study, said that although this is one of the biggest studies ever to examine the relationship between nut consumption and death risk, previous studies have also found that eating nuts regularly promotes overall health and extends life.
Although nuts are high in calories, and eating too many of them could therefore lead to weight gain, they’re packed with nutrition as they’re rich in protein, antioxidants, unsaturated fatty acids, vitamins and minerals. To maximize the health benefits, you should look for nuts with no oil or salt added.
More About the Study
The study data came from 42,000 male physicians and 76,000 female nurses over the course of three decades. Study participants reported on their eating habits at two to four-year intervals throughout the study. About 16,000 of the women and 11,000 of the men died over the course of the 30-year study.
Those who ate nuts frequently but not quite every day experienced health benefits as well. Risk of death was reduced by 13% for those who ate nuts between two and four times per week, by 11% for those who ate nuts once per week, and by 11% for those who ate nuts less than once weekly. The results were the same whether the nuts were almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts, other tree nuts, or peanuts.
Although the study’s results are convincing, it’s possible that people in the study who ate nuts frequently simply happened to be in better health than those who preferred not to eat nuts. In addition, the study relied on self-reported data, and it’s possible that some of the participants gave inaccurately remembered descriptions of their eating habits.
The Bottom Line
Eating a small serving of nuts once per day could significantly extend your life, according to a recent study. Even if you eat nuts occasionally but not every day, you’ll still reduce your risk of cancer, heart disease and respiratory disease.
The full text of the study is available online in the New England Journal of Medicine.