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This latest study confirms the benefits of eating peanuts and nuts. The Netherlands Cohort Study has studied 120, 000 Dutch men and women since 1986, and they found that eating approximately 1/2 handful of peanut or nuts per day is linked to a lower risk of mortality. However, this beneficial effect did not apply to peanut butter, and they theorize that it may be due to the added ingredients in it (salt and vegetable oils that are trans fats) that negate the beneficial effects of nuts. And perhaps eating an all natural peanut butter would have the same beneficial effects as plain nuts.

Note: Since 2013 even the United States FDA has said that partially hydrogenated oils (they are artificially made through an industrial process and contain trans fats) are no longer "generally recognized as safe" because they are linked to heart disease. So in general avoid all products with "partially hydrogenated" in the ingredients. From Science Daily:

Nuts and peanuts -- but not peanut butter -- linked to lower mortality rates, study finds

A paper published in the International Journal of Epidemiology confirms a link between peanut and nut intake and lower mortality rates, but finds no protective effect for peanut butter. Men and women who eat at least 10 grams of nuts or peanuts per day have a lower risk of dying from several major causes of death than people who don't consume nuts or peanuts.

The reduction in mortality was strongest for respiratory disease, neurodegenerative disease, and diabetes, followed by cancer and cardiovascular diseases. The effects are equal in men and women. Peanuts show at least as strong reductions in mortality as tree nuts, but peanut butter is not associated with lower mortality, researchers from Maastricht University found. This study was carried out within the Netherlands Cohort Study, which has been running since 1986 among over 120,000 Dutch 55-69 year old men and women. 

The associations between nuts and peanut intake and cardiovascular death confirm earlier results from American and Asian studies that were often focused on cardiovascular diseases. However, in this new study, it was found that mortality due to cancer, diabetes, respiratory, and neurodegenerative diseases was also lowered among users of peanuts and nuts. Project leader and epidemiologist Professor Piet van den Brandt commented: "It was remarkable that substantially lower mortality was already observed at consumption levels of 15 grams of nuts or peanuts on average per day (half a handful). 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 both contain various compounds such as monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids, various vitamins, fiber, antioxidants, and other bioactive compounds, that possibly contribute to the lower death rates. In contrast to peanuts, no association was found between peanut butter intake and mortality risk. However, besides peanuts, peanut butter contains also added components like salt and vegetable oils. In the past, it has been shown that peanut butter contains trans fatty acids and therefore the composition of peanut butter is different from peanuts. The adverse health effects of salt and trans fatty acids could inhibit the protective effects of peanuts.

Eating nuts or peanuts several times a week is associated with lower death rates, especially from cardiovascular disease. Note that a serving is a small handful or 1.5 ounces of whole nuts or 2 tablespoons of nut butter. Science Daily:

Peanut consumption associated with decreased total mortality and mortality from cardiovascular diseases

If you're looking for a simple way to lower your risk of dying from a heart attack, consider going nuts. Researchers at Vanderbilt University and the Shanghai Cancer Institute examined the association of peanut and nut consumption with mortality among low-income and racially diverse populations and found that intake of peanuts was associated with fewer deaths, especially from heart disease.

"Nuts are rich in nutrients, such as unsaturated fatty acids, fiber, vitamins, phenolic antioxidants, arginine and other phytochemicals. All of them are known to be beneficial to cardiovascular health, probably through their anti-oxidative, anti-inflammatory and endothelial function maintenance properties," Shu said.

While research has previously linked nut consumption with lower mortality, those studies focused mainly on higher-income, white populations. This study was the first to discover that all races -- blacks, whites and Asians alike -- could potentially increase heart health by eating nuts and peanuts.

This study was based on three large ongoing cohort studies. Participants included more than 70,000 Americans of African and European descent from the Southern Community Cohort Study (SCCS), who were mostly low-income, and more than 130,000 Chinese from the Shanghai Women's Health Study (SWHS) and the Shanghai Men's Health Study (SMHS).... In total, more than 14,000 deaths were identified, with a median follow-up of 5.4 years in the SCCS, 6.5 years in the SMHS, and 12.2 years in the SWHS.

Peanut consumption was associated with decreased total mortality, particularly cardiovascular mortality (i.e., 17-21 percent reduction in total mortality, and 23-38 percent reduction in cardiovascular mortality for the highest quartile intake group compared to the lowest quartile group) across all three racial/ethnic groups, among both men and women, and among individuals from low-SES groups.

The American Heart Association recommends eating four servings of unsalted, unoiled nuts a week. However, nutrient-rich nuts are also high in calories, so don't eat too many if you're watching your weight. A serving size is a small handful or 1.5 ounces of whole nuts or 2 tablespoons of nut butter.