Who would win in a fight between nuts and death?
Death always wins, eventually, but eating nuts will make it work for the victory. That's according to a compelling study today in the New England Journal of Medicine. Researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health reviewed records of 27,000 deaths over a 30-year period. They found, as Dr. Jeffrey Drazen put it, "a significant reduction in mortality associated with nut consumption."
"There is potentially a 20 percent improvement in mortality," said Dr. Charles Fuchs of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, "which is quite striking."
Eating nuts meant about a handful (an ounce) of any type of nut, seven or more times per week, for years. People who ate more nuts were not only less likely to die during the 30-year period, but also, Drazen said, "leaner, less likely to smoke; more likely to exercise, eat more fruits and vegetables, and drink more alcohol." Yes, more alcohol. Even controlling for those associations, the nut-eating sect apparently enjoyed significantly fewer cancers, strokes, infections, and cases of kidney failure and cardiac disease.
Food science is fickle in that even things we know to contain nutrients, antioxidants, etc.—things that are clearly good for cells in dishes in labs—often don't actually turn out to help us. We've know for a long time that nuts contain many things believed good and wholesome, but it was largely an assumption that eating them would actually translate into this sort of IRL outcome. And of course it might not be that nuts are in themselves great for us, just that they're neutral and fill a dietary space that might have otherwise gone to processed meats or Mega Stuf Oreos. It's also unlikely that all types of nut are equally associated with good health outcomes; this study just didn't draw distinctions.