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Could peanuts help battle the expanding waistlines of Mexican American children?

By Stephen DANIELLS , 27-Jun-2013

Could peanuts help battle the expanding waistlines of Mexican American children?

Mexican American children who consumed peanuts and peanut butter are less likely to be overweight and obese, compared to non-peanut munching kids, says a new study that adds to the weight management potential of peanuts.

Data from 262 sixth-graders enrolled in a school-based weight management program indicated that fewer peanut eaters were overweight (35%), compared to non-peanut eaters (64%), while the BMI of peanut eaters was also significantly lower, compared to non-eaters.

“Children at high risk for disease in adulthood have become the target of many public health programs,” wrote researchers from the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston in Nutrition Research .

“Low cost and easily implemented interventions such as increasing peanut consumption may be one way to address health risks in at risk populations.

“Efforts directed toward Mexican Americans should consider the feasibility of adding peanuts to a Mexican American diet, as peanuts are not commonly consumed in this cuisine.”

Nutrient-dense

From a cardiovascular perspective, meanwhile, peanuts are a veritable nutritional powerhouse, packed with cholesterol-busting phytosterols, monounsaturated fat, potassium and magnesium; vitamin E, niacin; folic acid; and the same kinds of phytonutrients found in berries, green tea and red wine (resveratrol, phenolic acids and flavonoids).

Less well-known is the fact that they also contain the highest levels of the amino acid arginine of any whole food (arginine is a precursor to nitric oxide, which helps expand blood vessels and decrease blood pressure).

As reported recently by FoodNavigator-USA , speakers at a recent event in Napa Valley hosted by the Peanut Institute said that peanuts are misunderstood.

Contrary to popular belief, roasted salted peanuts contain just 119mg of sodium per 1oz (28g) serving, no trans-fats and just 1.9g of saturated fat (plus a stack of healthy mono- and polyunsaturated fat), qualifying them for the American Heart Association heart-healthy certification scheme, pointed out Peanut Institute program director Pat Kearney.

They also comfortably meet the FDA’s criteria for low sodium foods (nuts with <140mg sodium/serving), she said.

Study details

The new study, led by Jennette Moreno, found that, in addition to the peanut-eating children having better body measurements, they also had significantly higher intakes of nutrients like magnesium and vitamin E, and tended to consume more fiber.

Peanut consumption was also associated with lower low-density lipoprotein and total cholesterol levels.

“Overall, the findings indicate a better health profile for participants who consumed peanuts eaters and demonstrate a need to further examine the effects of peanut consumption,” they concluded.

The findings were welcomed by Patricia Kearney, MEd, RD, program director for The Peanut Institute. "These results are consistent with government data from NHANES that shows children who eat a serving of peanuts or peanut butter have significantly lower zBMIs and higher intakes of vitamin E, magnesium, folate, niacin, iron, zinc, potassium, phosphorus, and selenium than non-eaters," she said.

Source: Nutrition Research
Published online ahead of print, doi: 10.1016/j.nutres.2013.05.005
“Peanut consumption in adolescents is associated with improved weight status”
Authors: J. Palcic Moreno, C.A. Johnston, A.A. El-Mubasher, M.A. Papaioannou, C. Tyler, M. Gee, J.P. Foreyt

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