Washington (AFP) - Eating peanuts, in small amounts, may reduce the risk of mortality, especially death from cardiovascular disease, a new study Monday showed.
The report compiles research from people of varying races, including Caucasians, African Americans and Asians, all from low income backgrounds.
Researchers found that consuming peanuts regularly reduced mortality among men and women from all groups, and suggests that eating the nuts -- which are relatively affordable -- can be an inexpensive and nutritious way to reduce mortality and cardiovascular disease around the world.
The study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, Internal Medicine includes more than 70,000 Caucasians and blacks in the United States and some 130,000 Chinese people in Shanghai.
"We found that peanut consumption was associated with reduced total mortality and cardiovascular disease mortality in a predominantly low-income black and white population in the US, and among Chinese men and women living in Shanghai," said senior author Xiao-Ou Shu, associate director for Global Health at the Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center (VICC).
There was a reduced risk of total mortality of in 17 to 21 percent of participants, the study showed.
The risk of death from cardiovascular disease was slashed by between 23 and 38 percent.
But co-author William Blot warned that because the data was from observational epidemiological studies and not randomized clinical trials, "we cannot be sure that peanuts per se were responsible for the reduced mortality observed."
"The findings from this new study, however, reinforce earlier research suggesting health benefits from eating nuts, and thus are quite encouraging," added Blot, who is also associate director for cancer prevention control and population-based research at VICC.
Peanuts are less expensive and more widely available than many other nuts, and are eaten by many cultures around the world.
The nutritious nuts -- which are actually legumes -- are high in and unsaturated fat, fiber, vitamins, and anti-oxidants and can boost cardiovascular health with as little as 30 grams eaten weekly.
"The results suggest that including a modest amount of nuts as part of a well-balanced diet may be of benefit," said Peter Weissberg, director of the British Heart Foundation, who did not participate in the study.
"The data do not show that the more peanuts you eat the lower the risk of a fatal heart attack, so people should not start eating large quantities of nuts, particularly salted nuts, in the hope that it will protect them from heart disease," he added.
Previous research has focused on white upper class research subjects.
The participants in this latest study were observed for between five and 12 years.