A shopkeeper sells pistachios at his shop. Regular nut eaters were less likely to die of cancer or heart disease, in fact, were less likely to die of any cause during a 30-year Harvard study. (Ebrahim Noroozi/Associated Press)
Nut case
Want to live longer? Try eating more nuts.

THE QUESTION Numerous studies have found that some foods seem to increase longevity for people who regularly eat them. Might nuts also have this effect?

THIS STUDY analyzed data on 118,962 men and women who had never had cancer, heart disease or a stroke. Over a span of nearly 30 years, 27,429 of them died. Those who ate a one-ounce serving of nuts — roughly, a small handful — seven or more times a week were 20 percent less likely to have died for any reason than those who never ate nuts. Even those who ate nuts less than once a week had a 7 percent reduction in risk. Consuming nuts at least five times a week corresponded to a 29 percent drop in mortality risk for heart disease, a 24 percent decline for respiratory disease and an 11 percent drop for cancer.

WHO MAY BE AFFECTED? Adults. The health benefits of nuts have been attributed to their nutrient makeup, which is rich in fiber, vitamins, minerals, unsaturated fatty acids, antioxidants and more. Nuts have been found in some studies to be helpful in preventing heart disease and diabetes.

CAVEATS Data on nut consumption came from the participants’ responses on questionnaires every two to four years. All types of nuts were included — peanuts as well as such tree nuts as walnuts, almonds, cashews and pistachios; however, the data did not include how the nuts were prepared (salted, roasted or raw, for instance), and the findings did not differentiate by type of nut. The study was funded in part by the International Tree Nut Council Nutrition Research and Education Foundation.

FIND THIS STUDY Nov. 21 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

LEARN MORE ABOUT the heart-healthy benefits of nut consumption at www.mayoclinic.com (search for “nuts”). Learn about healthy eating in general at www.choosemyplate.gov.

The research described in Quick Study comes from credible, peer-reviewed journals. Nonetheless, conclusive evidence about a treatment's effectiveness is rarely found in a single study. Anyone considering changing or beginning treatment of any kind should consult with a physician.