Snacking on Peanuts May Extend Your Life

(Image credit: Lopatin Anton/

People who regularly eat peanuts may live longer, a new study from the Netherlands finds. But before you get too excited, peanut butter doesn't count.

In the study, people who ate at least a third of an ounce (10 grams) of peanuts or other nuts daily were 23 percent less likely to die over a 10-year period than people who didn't eat nuts. The biggest reductions in deaths among the nut-lovers were for deaths from respiratory diseases, neurodegenerative diseases and diabetes, followed by cancer and cardiovascular diseases, the researchers said.

The benefit of eating nuts topped out at 15 grams daily, which is about half a handful, and eating more than that did not bring further decreases in people's risk of dying during the study, Piet van den Brandt, a co-author of the study and professor of epidemiology at Maastricht University, said in a statement. 

But "it was remarkable that substantially lower mortality was already observed" at this level of consumption, he said. [Extending Life: 7 Ways to Live Past 100

Eating peanut butter, however, despite its high content of peanuts, was not associated with a lower mortality risk. Peanut butter's salt and vegetable oils, which contain trans fatty acids, may supersede the protective nutrition in the peanuts themselves, the researchers said.

For the study, the researchers used data on about 120,000 middle-age Dutch men and women who participated in the Netherlands Cohort Study, which began in 1986. Within 10 years, about 18,000 of the participants had died. The researchers looked at the questionnaires that the participants had completed at the study's start, as well as the individuals' risk of dying during the study.

It is not exactly clear why there may be a longevity benefit to eating peanuts, which are legumes (in the same group as peas and lentils), and tree nuts, such as pecans, walnuts and almonds. But both peanuts and tree nuts contain compounds that have been linked with health benefits, such as monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids, vitamins, fiber, and antioxidants, the researchers said.

Previous studies done in the United States and Asia have linked nut consumption with lower rates of death from cardiovascular disease, the researchers said. 

Elizabeth Goldbaum is on Twitter. Follow Live Science @livescience, Facebook & Google+. Original article on Live Science

Elizabeth Goldbaum
Staff Writer
Elizabeth is a staff writer for Live Science. She enjoys learning and writing about natural and health sciences, and is thrilled when she finds an evocative metaphor for an obscure scientific idea. She researched ancient iron formations in China for her Masters of Science degree in Geosciences at the University of California, Riverside, and went on to Columbia Journalism School for a master's degree in journalism, focusing on environmental and science writing.