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The Treat That Can Save Your Life

By Marcus Williams 

What is a healthy snack that you should be eating?

A recent study published in the New England Journal of Medicine suggests people who snack on this popular food have a lower risk of death compared to people who never eat them.

Researchers at Harvard and Indiana University looked at data gathered for nearly 120,000 men and women in all. They looked at the risk of death in these subjects from several common health problems, and they compared this risk against their consumption of nuts. They found that people who ate an average of one serving of nuts per day had a 20 percent lower risk of death from several common health problems compared to those who never ate nuts. The more nuts they ate, the greater the effect.

The researchers noted that the study was funded in part by the International Tree Nut Council Nutrition Research and Education Foundation, a nonprofit industry group, but they stated the organization had no role or influence over any aspect of the study.

Lead study author Dr. Ying Bao, an internist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, Mass., says the findings reinforce what many have long suspected about the benefits of nut consumption.

“Nuts are a nutrient dense food,” she said. “Previous studies show benefits for different chronic diseases – benefits for diabetes, metabolic syndrome, even colon cancer. And, of course, heart disease.”

Importantly, those who consumed nuts were also those who tended to be less obese, less likely to smoke, more likely to exercise, and more likely to eat fruits and vegetables – all healthy factors that could contribute to longer life in and of themselves. However, even after taking all of these factors into account – as well as others like age, race and family history – the researchers still found that those who ate nuts came out on top when it came to early death due to cancer, heart disease, and lung disease.

The study is the largest yet to show such benefits.

Experts agree that this research adds to the increasing body of research that show that nuts have several health benefits, but say it’s important to note that no one food alone can keep you healthy. It’s important to remember that eating nuts is not a substitute for maintaining a healthy lifestyle. This means eating plenty of fruits and vegetables, exercising, not smoking, and limiting alcohol intake to 1 or 2 glasses per day.

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