By Dr. Maria Simbra

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Is it nutty to think nuts could be linked to longer life?

A study in the New England Journal of Medicine says the idea might not be so cracked up.

“Nuts are a great part of a heart healthy diet, so it definitely makes sense,” says St. Clair Hospital dietitian, Laura Heckmann.

In the study, researchers from Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School reviewed surveys about food consumption of more than 115,000 health care professionals. The researchers, who did not have the survey information at hand, then correlated death certificate information.

Turns out, those who ate nuts seven times a week had a 20 percent lower death rate after four years than those who did not partake.

“They are a great source of unsaturated fats,” Heckmann continues.

Nut eaters were less likely to die of heart disease, cancer and respiratory disease. They were also more likely to be leaner, more physically active and non-smokers.

“A lot of people were health professionals, so perhaps they were leaning toward a healthy diet to begin with,” Heckmann explains about factors influencing the findings.

This type of study can show correlation only, but not cause and effect.

A nonprofit organization representing several tree nut industries partially sponsored the work, but the group did not conduct the research itself.

If you think the hazards of being a couch potato can be tempered with a daily handful of nuts, it’s not that simple. We need more study of why this link was found, and what the most appropriate dose of nuts might be.

“The study itself, they included all sorts of nuts. Whether they were salted or roasted or had oil on them, but the American Heart Association recommends unsalted nuts without extra oil added to it,” Heckmann emphasizes.

For now, enjoy the healthy snack for its fiber, nutrients and antioxidants. Maybe someday we’ll understand more about these hints at their possible death-defying properties.

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