Researchers recently released a study that suggested that early exposure to peanuts could prevent allergies in children who are at high risk for peanut allergies. Now, a separate study suggests that peanuts may be good for your heart. Peanuts are having a good year.

The study, published in JAMA Internal Medicine, looked at 71,764 people in America (black and white and primarily of lower socioeconomic status,) and 134,265 people in Shanghai. Previous studies that found a high consumption of nuts had a negative effect on heart health had been done mainly on people of high socioeconomic status and of European decent.

The research found that Americans who ate the most nuts, particularly peanuts, had a 21 percent lower risk of death. Those studied from Shanghai had a 17 percent lower risk of death.

The study was observational. Over a period of about 12 years, the researchers used questionnaires to ascertain the nut consumption of study participants, and researchers admit there could be confounding factors. Further controlled research would need to be done to verify the results of this study, although the research looks promising.

Dr. Xiao-Ou Shu, senior author of the study and a professor of medicine at Vanderbilt University, believes “the evidence is quite strong that peanuts are beneficial to heart health.” One of the conclusions of the study was that “consumption of nuts, particularly peanuts given their general affordability, may be considered a cost-effective measure to improve cardiovascular health.”

Recently, there have been several studies showing that foods previously believed to be bad for heart health may not have those negative effects. One study found that butter, cheese and red meat aren’t the enemies of the heart they were thought to be. The bad effects of eggs and other cholesterol-rich foods are also now in question.

The changing information can be maddening, but there seems to be one piece of advice all health experts agree on when it comes to heart health. Walking, an exercise that is free and accessible to most people, can help prevent heart disease. 

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Robin Shreeves ( @rshreeves ) focuses on food from a family perspective from her home base in New Jersey.

Peanuts are full of surprises
Peanuts, and other nuts, may not be as bad for heart health as previously believed.