Peanuts Benefit Heart and Blood Vessel Health
A study of peanut consumption showed that including them as a part of a high fat meal improved the post-meal triglyceride response and preserved artery function. According to the study’s lead research, Xiaoran Liu, a Pennsylvania State University graduate student in the Department of Nutritional Sciences, "Peanuts are a healthy snack when eaten as part of a healthy diet."
The study sought to evaluate blood vessel function after a high fat meal challenge. Overweight men were randomly assigned to consume either a peanut meal containing 3 oz. of ground peanuts (as a shake) or a control meal (a shake without peanuts) that were matched for energy and macronutrients.
The Study’s Design
The lipid profile, glucose and insulin were measured five times after each meal. Flow-mediated dilatation (FMD) was measured to assess vascular function. This non-invasive method required a cuff at the forearm to restrain blood flow, which was then released to assess dilation of the brachial artery. The control meal decreased FMD by 1.2% compared to baseline. In contrast, there was no decrease in FMD after the peanut meal.
These results demonstrate that the peanut meal maintained normal vascular function whereas the high fat-matched control meal impaired vascular function acutely. Vascular dysfunction plays a major role in the development of atherosclerosis and the formation of coronary plaques and lesions that lead to coronary artery disease. Typically after a high fat meal, vascular function is reduced, albeit temporarily, until the fat that is in the blood (from the meal) is cleared. Strategies that can blunt this response to both dietary fat and its effect on vascular dysfunction may decrease the risk of coronary disease. The finding demonstrated that that peanut consumption was shown to be protect arteries as a part of high fat meal.
Peanuts Associated with Lower Heart Disease Risk
"Previous studies have shown that individuals who consume peanuts more than 2 times a week have a lower risk of coronary heart disease," said Liu. "This study indicates that the protective effect of peanut consumption could be due, in part, to its beneficial effect on artery health".
Peanuts are nutrient dense and energy dense, so Liu noted the importance of being aware of their calorie content when incorporating them in the diet. Thus, peanuts must replace other food sources of calories when included in the diet. For example, peanuts can be substituted for high fat, nutrient-poor foods in the diet that contain solid fats.
Looking ahead, the Penn State group hopes to investigate the effects of peanut consumption on other risk factors including inflammatory markers. Liu presented the research at the American Society for Nutrition's Scientific Sessions & Annual Meeting at EB 2015.