Nuts May Extend Your Lifespan By About 2 years

Nuts May Help Prevent Death
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We’ve known that increased nut consumption has been associated with a reduced risk of major chronic diseases, such as heart disease and diabetes. But do those who eat nuts actually live longer lives? Clinical trials have shown nuts help lower cholesterol and oxidation, and improve our arterial function and blood sugar levels. Does all this translate into greater longevity?

Researchers at Harvard examined the association between nut consumption and subsequent mortality of over 100,000 people followed for decades. In that time, tens of thousands died, but those that ate nuts every day lived significantly longer. Daily nut consumers had fewer deaths from cancer, heart disease, and respiratory disease, even after controlling for other lifestyle factors. Nut consumers lived significantly longer whether they were older or younger, fat or skinny, whether they exercised more, smoked, drank, or ate other foods that may affect mortality.

But nuts are so filled with fat that there “may be a concern that frequent nut consumption can result in weight gain.” However, that’s not what the Harvard researchers found. In fact, other studies have associated nut consumption with a slimmer waist, less weight gain, and lower risk of obesity. If we look at all the studies put together, it’s pretty much a wash. Diets enriched with nuts do not seem to affect body weight, body mass index, or waist circumference much at all. For example, one of the most recent such studies, highlighted in my video, Nuts May Help Prevent Death, in which subjects were told to add either 0, 70, or 120 pistachios to their daily diet as an afternoon snack every day for three months, found no noticeable difference between the three groups. You couldn’t see any difference between those eating no nuts and those eating more than 100 a day. Hence, it appears that the incorporation of nuts (around one to two small handfuls a day) would be advisable to ensure various health benefits without the risk of body weight gain.

How nuts do we have to go? Not much. Just a few servings a week may boost our lifespan and lower cancer rates—but it appears we have to keep it up. In the PREDIMED study, when long-time nut eaters were told to cut down on eating nuts or choose extra virgin olive oil, within five years they apparently lost much of their longevity benefit. Only the group that started out eating nuts and continued to eat at least the same amount of nuts died significantly less often.

You can find more on nuts and heart disease in my videos Nuts and Bolts of Cholesterol Lowering and How Do Nuts Prevent Sudden Cardiac Death?

More on nuts and cancer in Tree Nuts or Peanuts for Breast Cancer Prevention?

Nuts and inflammatory disease: Fighting Inflammation in a Nut Shell.

More than you ever wanted to know about nuts and weight here: Nuts and Obesity: The Weight of Evidence.

What if your physician tells you to not eat nuts because you have diverticulosis? Share this video with them: Diverticulosis & Nuts.

Those 100 pistachios a day may have one side-effect, though: Pistachio Nuts for Erectile Dysfunction.

-Michael Greger, M.D.

PS: If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my videos for free by clicking here and watch my full 2012 – 2015 presentations Uprooting the Leading Causes of Death, More than an Apple a Day, From Table to Able, and Food as Medicine.

Image Credit: Aoife mac / Flickr

  • Doctor Dave

    The Harvard results discussed here should be described as “…evidence from the Harvard Nurses Health Database shows that those omnivores who consumed nuts lived longer….” These nurses were nearly all highly carnivorous, as Dr Campbell describes in The China Study. Thus, the results are for carnivores adding nuts to their diet. Please note that the rest of their diet is also critically important for these results. Caution for vegans or near vegans – these results are not likely to apply to you. “The fat you eat is the fat you wear,” as Dr McDougall says. Again, I must say that the totality of the diet is what is important to health and longevity, not the nuts alone.

    • http://acupuncture-portland.com Cole Magbanua LAC

      This was my question exactly. Dr McDougall recommends much less nuts and seeds. Any studies about vegans with increased nut intake? “Nut consumers lived significantly longer whether they were older or younger, fat or skinny, whether they exercised more, smoked, drank, or ate other foods that may affect mortality.” Does this also take vegans into account?

      • Shimmy K

        Vegetarians lived longer when they ate nuts. This study doesn’t mention vegans, but since it helped vegetarians and others (smokers, overweight etc.) it hints that it might also apply to vegans. But Dr. Dave is right that we need to consider the group being studied and we gloss over that too often.

        http://www.llu.edu/public-health/health/nuts.page?

      • guest

        Mcdougall also recommends not to take vitamin D supplements, in any form, even fortified products with vitamin D such as almond milks, soy milks, etc. He claims D supplements actually are harmful. Nothing natural about a vitamin D pill. Oops, i meant a D hormone pill, as it isn’t vitamin replacement, but hormone replacement. The D from the sun is likely something very different than the pill.

      • Joseph Gonzales R.D.

        Dr. David Jenkins helped invent the glycemic index. He developed a portfolio diet for lowering cholesterol. Here are 38 citations about diet and disease with this study showing tree nuts help improve glycemic control. Nuts and seeds appear helpful for those with diabetes. Vegans on a low-carb diet ate nuts and seemed to do okay, as seen in this video on a low-carb plant-based diet. I do not necessarily recommend it because I have seen excellent clinical results from a strict plant based diet higher in carbohydrates and lower in fat, but still this ‘eco-atkins’ type of diet shows that perhaps animal fat is very different from plant fat.

    • Plantstrongdoc M.D.

      But still interesting that nut consumption apparently makes omnivores live longer

    • mjs_28s

      The fat we eat is not always the fat we wear.

      Did you read the article above, or just the title?

      “If we look at all the studies put together, it’s pretty much a wash. Diets enriched with nuts do not seem to affect body weight, body mass index, or waist circumference much at all. For example, one of the most recent such studies, highlighted in my video,Nuts May Help Prevent Death, in which subjects were told to add either 0, 70, or 120 pistachios to their daily diet as an afternoon snack every day for three months, found no noticeable difference between the three groups.”

      There are links to other articles within original text (but didn’t come over with cut & paste) that are clickable as well.

      If the fat you eat is the fat you wear with the implication that source doesn’t matter, then all the people looked at should have gained weight that were in the added nut groups regardless of how they ate before. They added more fat to their diets, period.

      Since I started eating nuts and flax, I have not gained weight or added fat which seems to go right along with the results in the article. While my experience was not a scientific study, I am about 98% no-animal products before and after adding nuts and seeds, around 3 ounces per day or more sometimes, and I look the same. It has been well over a year into this small dietary change for me.

    • http://www.123eat.net/ Steve Billig

      I would expect that there are enough vegetarians and vegans in the Nurses Study sample to provide statistical power to assess differences based on diet-style. Unless you have diet-style data from the study that supports your view that the benefit does not extend to vegetarians/vegans, your statement is pure speculation, speculation that seems to be refuted by the statement in the article that, “Nut consumers lived significantly longer whether they were older or younger, fat or skinny, whether they exercised more, smoked, drank, or ATE OTHER FOODS THAT MAY AFFECT MORTALITY.”

      Dr. McDougall’s concern was for people who were eating buckets of nuts. Plus, his laser focus on starches pays way too little attention to the other food groups, including nuts and seeds.

      And I agree wholeheartedly with you that it is the totality of the diet that matters, which the research shows should include moderate amounts of nuts.

      • Shimmy K

        In the illustrations that accompany this Harvard study it says that the study was “adjusted for age; race; body-mass index; level of physical activity;
        status with regard to smoking, whether a physical examination was
        performed for screening purposes, current multivitamin use, and current
        aspirin use; status with regard to a family history of diabetes
        mellitus, myocardial infarction, or cancer; status with regard to a
        history of diabetes mellitus, hypertension, or hypercholesterolemia;
        intake of total energy, alcohol, RED OR PROCESSED MEAT, fruits, and
        vegetables; and, for women, menopausal status and hormone use.”

        I think that pretty solidly states that vegans can benefit from regular nut consumption

  • brec

    “But nuts are so filled with fat that there ‘may be a concern that frequent nut consumption can result in weight gain.'”

    My concern is that Esselstyn recommends a very-low-fat diet; for heart disease patients, nuts are excluded from the diet.

    • Plantstrongdoc M.D.

      The patients Esselstyn treated were the worst of the worst cases of ischaemic heart disease patients, so severe afflicted that even conventional medicine had nothing to offer. In these severe cases it probably makes sense to avoid all kinds of fat. One more fat molecule inserted into their endothelium and they were dead – well almost….

      • brec

        His 2007 book was not addressed to his 1980s research cohort. Its advice on nuts is to those who have heart disease.

        • Plantstrongdoc M.D.

          I am biased – I like nuts! :-)

          • Psych MD

            I’m with you. I love nuts. I eat them daily and would estimate that at least 25% of my daily calories come from Costco raw unsalted mixed nuts, though I’m not about to weigh, count, measure, quantify, or in any other way obsess over it. I’m 62 y/o, have a BMI of 20.5 and stellar lipids: total chol. 162, HDL 85, non-HDL 77, triglycerides 40. CRP 0.10 and PSA 0.9. I’m in my office at this moment, having just finished my daily lunch of carrots, celery, and apples dipped in hummus, having completed my 100 pushups (in divided doses). When I get home I’ll mount my whole body vibration machine for some brief, high intensity exercise, knock out some pullups and chinups and then work out with some resistance tubes. As far as I’m concerned following a healthy lifestyle is simple.

          • Plantstrongdoc M.D.

            Seems we follow nearly the same exercise routine – and I am 18 years younger! You must be in good shape!

          • Psych MD

            I received a wake up call about three years ago. A fellow psychiatrist and former professional baseball player invited me to play in one of his adult league games. My brain thought I was still in high school but my body disagreed. When I barely had enough strength to hit the ball out of the infield I realized that sarcopenia had taken its toll and I vowed to reverse it. Since I spend such a large part of my life in my office I keep a pair of Perfect Pushup rotating handles there. They’re great. I also practice daily intermitent fasting. No food before noon. I’m a lot stronger now. I think I could hit it out of the infield.

          • Plantstrongdoc M.D.

            Daily intermittent fasting – interesting! I have read all the books by Roy L. Walford. Can you recommend articles or books about daily intermittent fasting? BTW: Your favorite nuts – is it Kirkland Signature Extra Fancy Unsalted?

      • jj

        My sister is one of those that was almost dead before changing her diet. Her veins themselves are terribly unhealthy. She was very strict at first then after 3-4 yrs started eating more nuts but has had to cut back to only using flax seed. She had one carotid endarterectomy, probably needs the other side done and wants to avoid the arteries filling again. Dr. Esselstyn’s recommendations are for people with serious issues.

  • Shimmy K

    Eating nuts 5 times a week can cut heart disease risk in half,
    http://www.llu.edu/public-health/health/nuts.page?
    but so can drinking 5 cups of water a day,
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11978586
    and so will eating whole wheat bread compared to eating white bread
    http://www.llu.edu/public-health/health/heart.page
    Regular consumption of beans will reduce heart disease
    http://beaninstitute.com/health-benefits/beans-and-heart-disease/

    Will eating all these things make you nearly 100% heart attack-proof?

    • Plantstrongdoc M.D.

      No – 5 times half-life before it is 0….. :-)

      • Shimmy K

        What if you add exercise, fruit and green leafies to the mix?

        • Matthew Smith

          And dark chocolate, kiwi, tea, soy, and flax seeds ! Also, like you said, broccoli, berries, citrus, apples, and beets.

  • PCK

    What about the fat in nuts for people with insulin resistance or diabetes? They are saying that it is the fat in the muscles & liver that cause insulin resistance & to cut out dietary fats.

  • Gary

    Peanut butter is my go to food for gaining weight or fat.
    All I have to do is dip pretzels in peanut butter or have it on toast while laying in bed watching TV, and the next morning I’m sure to be 1 to 2 lbs heavier the next morning.

    Only a bowl of ice-cream would put the weight on me faster, followed by pasta…)

    But I have no problem eating some of the better whole nuts, like walnuts etc.

    • Jason

      Not to be churlish, but peanut butter–and indeed all nut and seed butters–contain significant amounts of oil added to the nut or seed, and in that sense are not true whole plant foods. Most commercial peanut butters have other ingredients as well, like sugar or preservatives. I suppose you could make your own peanut butter from fresh peanuts and only add minimum amounts of oils. That would be better than commercial peanut butter. Most pretzels are made from refined flour, and are also not whole plant. I suspect that flour foods in general have less beneficial fiber than whole grain foods. Eating in the evening also tends to induce weight gain. But I think having a small bowl (1oz. or so) of walnuts or other nuts/seeds would be OK. I wonder if it’s the combination of refined cereals and processed nuts/seeds which is largely to blame?

      • Joseph Gonzales R.D.

        I think those are great points. Food is relative to the amount of healthful ingredients in it. Still, if some find that certain foods just don’t jive well for them, and don’t help with weight loss, than more power to them! For others, peanut butter doesn’t seem to be an issue. I agree though quality ingredients matter!

      • jj

        There are brands of nut butters that don’t add other ingredients except salt or no salt added. I prefer the grind your own machines. It is so much fresher. Almond butter is my preference.

    • fred

      I tend to be a nut-aholic. I generally eat too many at a time….when I buy them every 10 days or so. Notice that this causes an intestinal slowdown…if not temporary blockage. Peanuts have the worst effect. Seems I might also be developing a sort of allergy.

      I’d guess maybe 2-3 oz per day might be OK. I need a nut dispensing machine with a timer and a lock…maybe get a job as a lab rat…live in a cage?

  • Marie

    Any difference between raw and roasted nuts in terms of benefits?

    • Joseph Gonzales R.D.

      Roasted in oil is not ideal so I would suggest eating raw. Lots of folks soak and sprout to enhance minerals and such but my position is this is not necessary if you eat a well-rounded diet. Ugh, Dr. Greger stumped me again as I wanted to make sure I was correct, but actually roasted almonds may have more health benefits than raw. Not sure about other nuts. I like the aroma of toasted nuts and seeds and that gets me to eat more vegetables so sometimes I toast and sometime I eat raw. Hope that helps. Others may have better ideas or more research.

  • walterbyrd

    What about omega-6 : omega-3 ratio? I thought nuts had way too much omega-6?

  • Kiz

    I have eaten strict raw, vegan and everything in between. Whenever I eat nuts, even if they’ve been soaked, sprouted, etc, I see an increase in cellulite on my body. When I was raw, I ate nuts and it’s as if it happens instantly. I even take plant based digestive enzymes, including those with increased lipase. Plus, I do not always digest them that well, even with digestive enzymes. And many times, olive oil, avocados or other things high in fat make me feel nauseated, again, even with an increase in digestive enzymes. I love nuts, but am skeptical. Anyone else have this issue?

    • Sunshine

      Hi Kiz! I stop losing weight (I have some to lose) or gain weight every time I start eating nuts/seeds – even 1 oz a day. And my tolerance for glucose and carbohydrates (all plants and whole foods – sweet potatoes, fruits, etc) goes down almost immediately upon reintroducing nuts and seeds into my diet. I get a head buzz and uncomfortable symptoms that I don’t ever get when I’m not including higher fat foods in my diet. I am drawn to the benefits of nuts, but in many trials with myself, I just don’t feel well and I can’t eat as much of the foods that do make me feel well when I consume even a small amount of nuts/seeds.

      I had similar questions to the posters above – if the studies on nuts compare healthy vegan diets with no nuts to healthy, vegan diets with nuts, or if there is a way to extrapolate from the current studies whether there is a significant benefit to adding nuts to an otherwise healthy, plant based diet? And on the same coin, are there detriments to a healthy, vegan diet without nuts/seeds, or are the health promoting benefits available through grains, legumes, fruits and vegetables?

      I would be interested in Dr. Greger addressing whether the impact of fat from plants on insulin sensitivity has any similarity to that of fat/saturated fat from animal products. I know there are others whose weight loss has stalled when continuing to eat a small amount of nuts. I wonder if there are others who experience a change in insulin sensitivity/blood sugar as well? And could gender, or other individual differences, cause the variances in response to nuts in the diet?

  • https://www.facebook.com/app_scoped_user_id/10205018065545651/ Diane Herbst

    ok, I am completely confused.
    Dr. Esselstyn, who has done his own published research on how to prevent and reverse heart disease, says not to eat nuts because for those of us with heart disease they are not good. Then I see this story where it says “Daily nut consumers had fewer deaths from cancer, heart disease, and
    respiratory disease, even after controlling for other lifestyle factors.”

    Mr. Gonzalez or Dr. G, can you please weigh in on this and clarify? Thanks!

    • Matthew Smith

      Nuts do not contribute to weight gain or heart disease according to this site and can add to life. Eating four handfuls of walnuts a week can add as much to your life as smoking five cigarettes a day takes and running 40 minutes a day adds. This might be four or five years. Walnuts are the most protective nut against cancer, pecans and peanuts follow according to this site. Everyone should eat four handfuls of walnuts a week according to Dr. Greger.

    • Joseph Gonzales R.D.

      HI Diane. ​Here is a great video by Dr. Greger that explains the research between nut intake and body weight. Make sure to check out the bottom of the video’s “Doctors Note” to see more links and information. Lastly, a follow-up to that video is solving the mystery of the missing calories, which may also help.​ If suffering from heart disease or at severe risk Dr. Esselstyn has great success with his patients, as he has published research showing how a plant-based diet can be “A way to reverse CAD”.

  • Ann

    I agree wholeheartedly with you that it is the totality of the diet that matters, which the research shows should include moderate amounts of nuts.Cheap Snapback Hats