Tree Nut Consumption Associated with Reduced Total and Cause-Specific Mortality

Largest study to date on nut consumption and mortality in New England Journal of Medicine

In a study published November 20, 2013 in the New England Journal of Medicine, researchers looked at the association of nut consumption with total and cause-specific mortality among 76,464 women in the Nurses’ Health Study and 42,498 men in the Health Professionals Follow-up Study. Consumption of nuts, including tree nuts (such as pistachios, almonds, Brazil nuts, cashews, hazelnuts, macadamias, pecans, pine nuts, and walnuts), was inversely associated with total mortality in both men and women, independent of other predictors for death. In addition, there were significant inverse associations for deaths due to cancer, heart disease, and respiratory disease.

This is the largest study to date to examine the relationship between nut consumption and total mortality. The results are consistent with previous studies according to senior author, Charles Fuchs, MD, MPH, from the Department of Medical Oncology, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Boston, MA. “The findings from our study and others suggest a potential benefit of nut consumption for promoting health and longevity,” reported Dr. Fuchs.

Nuts contain important nutrients such as unsaturated fats, high quality protein, vitamins (i.e., vitamin E, folate, and niacin), minerals (i.e., magnesium, calcium, and potassium), and phytochemicals—all of which may offer cardioprotective, anticarcinogenic, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant properties.

Previous studies have supported the disease-protective power of nuts, specifically pistachios. Studies suggest that pistachios eaten in moderation may help support healthy blood glucose levels. Additionally, the FDA recognizes that eating 1.5 ounces per day of most tree nuts, including pistachios, as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol may lower the risk of heart disease. And for weight maintenance, emerging research suggests that the actual act of opening the shell to eat a pistachio helps to slow down the eating process. The shells appear to serve as a visual cue in reducing caloric consumption. Even though fewer calories (and pistachios) are consumed, there was no difference in satisfaction. 

A one-ounce serving of pistachios is 49 nuts, more per serving than any other snack nut, and provides a good source of fiber (3 grams), 6 grams of protein, and 11 grams of heart healthy fat all for just 160 calories.