A popular, high-fat snack could substantially reduce the risk of developing Type II Diabetes, according to a recent study conducted at the Harvard School of Public Health (SPH).
The researchers found that eating a serving of peanuts or other nuts five or more times a week results in a 30 percent reduced risk of women developing the condition.
Eating at least five half servings of peanut butter a week also reduced the risk by 20 percent.
The study tracked 83,818 women from 11 states for 16 years. They ranged in age from 34 to 59 years old, and had no history of diabetes, cardiovascular disease or cancer. Over the course of the study, researchers documented 3,206 new cases of Type II Diabetes.
The relationship between consuming peanut butter, peanuts and other nuts and protection against Type II Diabetes is linear, according to the study. The more the subjects ate, the greater the protective effect the peanuts had.
Even for those with high risk of contracting the disease, eating peanuts may be a good way to lower risk. The study found that peanuts help decrease the risk of contracting Type II Diabetes in people who are unfit, overweight or smokers, all of which are risk factors for the disease.
Although only women were included in the study, its author said he did not believe the results only applied to that gender.
“The study was originally designed to study diet and chronic disease including diabetes in women. However, we think the results should apply to men,” Frank Hu wrote in an e-mail. Hu is an associate professor of nutrition and epidemiology at SPH who helped design and supervise the 16-year study.
The health benefits of peanuts are nothing new to scientists. Studies have shown that peanuts can help people lose weight, lower the risk of heart disease and even inhibit cancer, according to studies done by researchers at Purdue University, Penn State University and the State University of New York at Buffalo.
But simply adding peanuts to the diet may not be healthy, Hu warned. Rather, peanuts should be a replacement for other foods such as refined grain products or red meat, since they contain less saturated fat.
“Based on our findings, it is a good idea to incorporate nuts/peanut butter into the diet, instead of simply adding nuts on the top,” Hu said.
According to the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention, rates of Type II Diabetes have tripled in the last 30 years. Over 17 million people in the United States have diabetes, while 16 million more are at high risk of developing the disease.