Popping some peanuts might have some protective benefits for your heart, a new study from Penn State suggests.
Researchers recruited 15 men who were overweight or obese, but otherwise healthy, and had them eat a high fat meal. One group of men ate a shake containing three ounces of peanuts along with it, while another group drank a shake of similar nutritional quality, but without the peanuts.
When they tested their blood afterwards, the participants who consumed the peanuts showed a 32 percent reduction in triglycerides, or fat in their blood, than the guys who drank the peanut-less shake.
That’s notable, because meals usually cause a spike in blood fats, and that surge can increase the risk of heart disease, researcher Penny Kris-Etherton noted in a press release.
Whenever you eat, your arteries tend to stiffen, which can limit the availability of nitric oxide. As a result, your arteries can dilate as much. When that happens often enough, it can lower blood flow throughout the body and make the heart work harder.
But peanuts may counteract this effect to some degree. Researchers believe it was because the nuts improved the dilation and constriction of the inner lining of the blood vessels, preventing the stiffening effect.
Now, the study does have some limitations, including a small number of participants and a limited time frame—the men were only evaluated on two occasions of having the peanut-and-fat mix. That means it’s not possible to know if regular peanut consumption lowers heart risks overall, or simply immediately after eating.
Also, for those counting calories, three ounces of peanuts at every meal could be tough. That amount clocks in at just under 500 calories, according to the USDA. And it’s not clear from this study whether ingesting lower amounts of peanuts could lead to some benefit, either.
Another caveat is that the Peanut Institute sponsored the study. That tends to draw skepticism about the results—much like a recent Italian study that found eating pasta can help with weight loss, which was funded by Barilla Pasta.
But keep in mind that since the study appears in the Journal of Nutrition, it was peer reviewed before publishing. Also, this isn’t the first time that an association between peanuts and heart health have been identified.
In fact, a study published in JAMA Internal Medicine in 2015 that looked at the diets of over 200,000 people worldwide found that those who regularly ate peanuts and nuts were less likely to die of heart disease than those who rarely ate them.