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A Few Peanuts a Day Keep Brain Strokes Away

A few peanuts a day reduce the risk of ischemic strokes and reduce cardiovascular risk

Bhavin Jankharia
4 min read
A Few Peanuts a Day Keep Brain Strokes Away
A few peanuts a day reduce the risk of ischemic strokes and reduce cardiovascular risk

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Nuts, as part of any plant-based food plan, like the Mediterranean diet, help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and thus improve healthspan and lifespan. However, direct evidence of the benefits of individual nuts in clinical trials has been difficult to obtain and is often conflicting.

A recent 15-year prospective study from Japan, headed by Ikehara S and colleagues, in the journal Stroke [1] looked at a large cohort of people who ate variable amounts of peanuts and found that those who ate an average of 4.3 peanuts a day had a reduced risk of ischemic stroke, total stroke and cardiovascular disease, but not hemorrhagic stroke and ischemic heart disease, compared to those who did not eat peanuts or ate less than 1-2 per day.

Peanuts are legumes as compared to walnuts, almonds, and cashews, which are tree nuts.  A serving of around 30-40 peanuts has 160-180 kCal of energy with 7-8 gm of protein and 14-15 gm of fat, 2 gm being saturated and the rest monounsaturated. As long as the peanuts themselves are not ultra-processed and are not eaten from boxes and tins that contain salt, sugar and additional fat, they would be beneficial.

An accompanying commentary by Walter Kernan [2] puts all this in perspective and analyses the results of this study in the context of “food as medicine”.

One issue with all such trials is that of isocaloric replacement. If the amount of food we eat is the same everyday, and we replace meat-based and ultra-processed foods (UPFs) with plant based items, irrespective of what that replacement may be (fruits, vegetables, nuts, etc), the reduction in “bad” calories itself leads to health benefits. In effect, those who ate peanuts in the trial, might have been replacing some other “unhealthy” food item with peanuts and the gained benefit could potentially be just a “replacement” benefit (bad food replaced by good food, which could be any good food), rather than from the peanut itself.

The whole is often more than just a sum of the individual parts…if a plant-based meal plan incorporating adequate servings of fruits, vegetables and nuts saves lives, do we really need to know the details of how healthy each individual food item in itself is, given that there is no superfood that works independent of the sum of what we eat on a daily basis?

More and more, we now know that plant-based meals that incorporate nuts, fruits and vegetables with adequate polyphenols, and with as few UPFs as possible, reduce the risk of coronary artery disease, improve cardiovascular risk, reduce the incidence of stroke and improve cognition.

How does this affect you and I? If you are not already doing so, it would be a good idea to add a few servings of peanuts, along with other tree nuts like walnuts, cashews, almonds, etc every week to the food we eat, in whichever manner possible, as part of a regular plant-based food plan in our atmasvasth quest to live long, healthy.


Footnotes:

1. Ikehara S et al; JPHC Study Group. Peanut Consumption and Risk of Stroke and Ischemic Heart Disease in Japanese Men and Women: The JPHC Study. Stroke. 2021 Nov;52(11):3543-3550. doi: 10.1161/STROKEAHA.120.031212. Epub 2021 Sep 9. PMID: 34496618.

2. Kernan WN. Eating Well to Prevent Stroke: Peanuts Are on the Plate. Stroke. 2021 Nov;52(11):3551-3554. doi: 10.1161/STROKEAHA.121.036172. Epub 2021 Sep 9. PMID: 34496614.


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