US - A meal containing peanuts had less detrimental effects on the body than a similar meal without peanuts, showed research presented at the annual meeting of the American Society for Nutrition.
"Peanuts are a healthy snack when eaten as part of a healthy diet," said lead researcher Xiaoran Liu, a graduate student at The Pennsylvania State University.
The purpose of the research, funded by The Peanut Institute, was to evaluate vascular function after a high fat meal challenge.
15 overweight males were randomised to consume either a peanut meal containing 3 ounces of ground peanuts (as a shake) or a control meal (a shake without peanuts) that were equal for energy and macronutrients.
The lipid profile, glucose and insulin were measured five times after each meal. In addition, 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 per cent compared to baseline.
In contrast, there was no decrease in FMD after the peanut meal.
Typically after a high fat meal, vascular function is reduced, albeit temporarily, until the fat that is in the blood 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.
"Previous studies have shown that individuals who consume peanuts more than 2 times a week have a lower risk of coronary heart disease," said Mr 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 being aware of their calorie content when incorporating them in the diet is important. 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.
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