WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – Adding peanuts to that apple a day that keeps the doctor away is a good way to stay heart-healthy and trim, says a Purdue University professor.
Research by Richard Mattes, professor of foods and nutrition, and his doctoral student, Corinna Alper, proves regular peanut consumption helps reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease without weight gain.
"Peanuts are the most widely consumed nut in this country," Mattes said. "They are a rich source of monosaturated fatty acids, magnesium and folate, vitamin E, copper, arginine and fiber, all of which have cardiovascular disease risk-reducing properties."
Mattes said the findings are consistent with several epidemiological and clinical studies.
"Peanuts, which are actually legumes, are often viewed as unhealthy because they are high in fat," said Mattes. "This is the biggest obstacle in peanut consumption.
"But peanuts are rich in the types of fats that actually reduce cardiovascular disease risk and have strong satiety properties — meaning a person feels full after eating peanuts — so they do not pose a threat of weight gain. People can feel comfortable including them in their diet to take advantage of peanuts' reducing the risk of heart disease, without adding to body weight."
Mattes and Alper conducted three trials in the study. The first trial entailed having participants reduce dietary fat intake by 500 calories and replace them with 500 calories of peanuts, so total calories did not change. Only the source of those calories did.
In the second trial, individuals consumed their regular diet and added 500 calories of peanuts, which boosted total caloric intake. In the third treatment, individuals were allowed to incorporate peanuts in their diets in any way they chose.
In all three groups, subjects' triglyceride level – a risk factor for cardiovascular disease – was lowered significantly.
"We have learned that regular peanut consumption lowers triglyceride levels by as much as 24 percent – even in the group where peanuts were added to regular dietary intake," Mattes said. "We also saw no significant change in body weight, despite adding 500 calories of peanuts a day for eight weeks.