Smooth or crunchy? Which ever way you prefer your peanut butter, the ingredients contained within could well keep diabetes at bay. Researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health in the US report this week that consuming a daily tablespoon of peanut butter could significantly cut the risk of type 2 diabetes.
According to the researchers, a half serving (one tablespoon) of peanut butter or a full serving of peanuts or other nuts (an ounce), five or more times a week is associated with a 20 per cent to 30 per cent reduced risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
The study shows women who eat five tablespoons of peanut butter each week can reduce their risk of developing type 2 diabetes by almost 20 per cent.
In addition, the relationship between consuming peanut butter, peanuts and other nuts and type 2 diabetes is linear - higher consumption provided a greater protective effect, claim the researchers. Women consuming a half serving of peanut butter or a full serving of peanuts and other nuts one to four times per week had a 16 per cent reduced risk of developing the disease.
The large population study included over 83,000 female nurses who were followed for an average of 16 years in the Brigham and Women's Hospital-based Nurses' Health Study. The women in the study completed food frequency questionnaires approximately every four years between 1980 and 1996, and had no history of diabetes, cardiovascular disease, or cancer.
Frank Hu, Associate Professor of Nutrition and Epidemiology at Harvard School of Public Health and an author of the study, said: "Given the observed inverse association between nuts and risk of coronary heart disease as well as type 2 diabetes, it is advisable to recommend regular peanut butter and nut consumption as a replacement for refined grain products or red or processed meats, which would avoid increasing caloric intake."
According to the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention, rates of type 2 diabetes have tripled in the last 30 years. Over 17 million people in the United States alone have diabetes, while 16 million more are at high risk of developing the disease.
The US Peanut Institute reports that peanut butter and peanuts mainly contain unsaturated fat and are low in saturated fat, characteristics which are associated with lower risk of type 2 diabetes. In addition to unsaturated fat, scientific findings suggest that other components of peanut butter, nuts and peanuts, such as fibre and magnesium, decrease insulin resistance and have been inversely associated with risk of type 2 diabetes.
Full findings of the Harvard study can be found in the recent issue of Journal of the American Medical Association.