Nov. 21 (UPI) -- People who ate a handful of nuts were 20 percent less likely to die from any cause over a thirty year period than those who did not consume nuts.
The research, conducted by Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Brigham and Women's Hospital and the Harvard School of Public Health, found that people who ate nuts were more slender than their counterparts who didn't eat nuts, contrary to earlier studies that linked nuts to being overweight.
Data collected from 76,464 women and 42,498 men over a 10-year period showed that people who consumed more nuts were leaner, less likely to smoke, and more likely to exercise, use multivitamin supplements, consume more fruits and vegetables and drink more alcohol. Researchers were able to extrapolate links between nut consumption and the mortality rate.
"The most obvious benefit was a reduction of 29 percent in deaths from heart disease -- the major killer of people in America," said Charles Fuchs of Dana-Farber and the senior author of the report.
The researchers also saw an 11 percent decrease in the risk of dying from cancer. Previous studies have found that increased nut consumption lowered the risk of heart disease, type-2 diabetes and colon cancer.
While smaller studies have linked nut consumption to lowered mortality rates in particular populations, this is the first study to find the same link in the mortality rate of a large population.
The research was unable to determine the cause of the nut benefit, but found the same effect whether the participant consumed peanuts or "tree nuts," such as cashews, walnuts and pistachios.