According to researchers at The Pennsylvania State University, peanut consumption at mealtime could help reduce the risk of heart attacks, strokes and other cardiovascular diseases. The researchers published their findings in The Journal of Nutrition.
“Typically, whenever we eat something, it causes the arteries to get a little bit stiffer during the post-meal period, but we have shown that if you eat peanuts with your meal, this can help prevent the stiffening response,” said Penny Kris-Etherton, distinguished professor of nutrition, Penn State. “When the stiffening response happens in the cells that line the arteries, resulting in decreased elasticity in the arteries, it can limit the availability of nitric oxide, and when there’s less nitric oxide, the arteries don’t dilate that much. What you want is a dilation of the arteries and for them to be really elastic.”
During the study, the researchers gave overweight and obese men approximately three ounces of peanuts to eat along with a high-fat meal. The researchers found that consuming peanuts helped to lessen the release of lipids into the bloodstream.
This spike in blood lipid concentration after consuming a fatty meal has previously been associated with a higher risk of cardiovascular disease. As postprandial arterial stiffening can force the heart muscle to pump harder to pump the blood through the vessels, this phenomenon can also increase the risk of cardiovascular events.
“As the heart works harder and harder, over a long period of time, it could lead, ultimately, to heart failure,” said Kris-Etherton. According to the researchers, peanuts could help the arterial cells retain their elasticity, potentially minimizing the risk of heart attacks and strokes.
“After a meal, triglycerides increase and this typically decreases the dilation of the arteries, but the peanuts prevent that big increase in triglycerides after the meal,” said Kris-Etherton. “And that may be the mechanism behind this effect, because the triglycerides are not getting so high, which may explain why there is not a decrease in artery elasticity.”
Kris-Etherton and her colleagues observed a 32 percent reduction in blood triglyceride levels after the high-fat meals were consumed with peanuts, compared to a control group. The researchers plan to conduct larger studies in the future, involving both men and women, in order to study the potential health benefits of peanuts.