HealthDay News — Eating more nuts significantly correlates with lower risk for total mortality, as well as for disease-specific mortality due to cancer, heart disease and lung disease, data from two large cohort studies indicates.

Overall mortality decreased 7% with weekly nut consumption and 20% for daily nut consumption compared with people who did not eat nuts, Charles S. Fuchs, MD, of Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, and researchers reported in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Previous observational studies have linked nut consumption to beneficial effects on coronary heart disease and certain heart disease risk factors. On the basis of these findings the FDA currently recommends eating 1.5 oz of nuts per day as part of a low fat diet to help reduce the risk for heart disease.

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However, these studies have been limited by small sample size, limited dietary information and lack of adjusting for confounders, and to-date there has been only minimal data linking nut consumption to reduced total mortality.

To better examine the relationship between nut consumption and mortality, Fuchs and colleagues analyzed data from 76,464 women who participated in the Nurses’ Health Study and from 42,498 men in the Health Professionals Follow-up study, both of which followed patients for 20 to 24 years.

The researchers combined data from the two studies into a single analysis that included 3,038,853 person-years. During follow-up a total of 16,200 women and 11,229 men died.

There was an inverse association between nut consumption and total mortality for women and men, the researchers found. As nut consumption increased, mortality hazards declined significantly (P<0.001 for trend) compared with participants that reported no nut consumption:

  • Less than once per week — HR 0.93, 95% CI: 0.90-0.93
  • Once per week — HR 0.89, 95% CI 0.86-0.93
  • Two to four times per week — HR 0.87, 95% CI 0.83-0.90
  • Five or six times per week — HR 0.85, 95% CI 0.79-0.91
  • Seven or more times per week — HR 0.80, 95% CI 0.73-0.86

Mortality benefits with increasing nut consumption ranged from 6% to 21% in women (P<0.001) and from 9% to 20% in men (P<0.001). Those who ate nuts also had significantly reduced risk of disease specific mortality, specifically cancer, heart disease and respiratory disease.

In a subgroup analysis of mortality benefit by nut type, there were no differences in the benefits conferred by peanuts, tree nuts or other types of nuts, the researchers found.

“[O]ur data are consistent with a wealth of existing observational and clinical-trial data in supporting the health benefits of nut consumption for many chronic diseases,” the researchers wrote.

They added that nutrients in nuts, including unsaturated fatty acids, high-quality protein, fiber, vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals, “may contribute cardioprotective, anticarcinogenic, antiinflammatory and antioxidant properties.”


  1. Bao Y et al. N Engl J Med. 2013; 369:2001-2011.