USA - The peanut powerhouse


Research evidence increasingly shows that peanuts and peanut butter may have positive health benefits.
These findings provide an excellent foundation for peanut-based products from the USA to be positioned as high-value products for Eur'opean consumers and Europe's food processing industry.

Traditionally consumed as snack peanuts, inshell produce and peanut butter, peanut ingredients are playing an increasing role in food product preparation. The most popular formulation for peanut flour, available in either 12% or 28% fat, is in peanut butter-flavoured coatings and baking drops. Peanut flour is also used for high protein nutritional or diet bars, dry sauce mixes and seasoning blends.
In confectionery applications, peanut flour helps control fat migration and boosts flavour in peanut butter-filled products.
Granulated, sliced and nibbed peanuts can be applied topically or within confections, snacks, cereals, ice cream and bakea goods to add texture and flavour.
Peanut oils and extracts are used to help boost the peanut flavour of many food items.

The great taste of peanuts and peanut butter appeal to consumers of all ages, and peanuts have long been partnered With chocolate for a variety of confectionery products.
American peanut processors can meet individual specifications and can offer many new and interesting products that incorporate flavours, coatings and processes.
These are available in bulk as well as institu-tional and consumer sizes.
Peanut butter, roasted and flavoured kernels, roasted and salted inshell peanuts, granulated peanuts, peanut flour, peanut oil (both refined and crude), aromatic oil and extract are all available from US shellers, blanchers and manufacturers.

Peanuts are, in fact, not strictly nuts at all.
They are legumes which mature underground, and for this reason are often referred to as groundnuts.
Consumers are often surprised to learn that, despite the name, peanut butter contains no butter at all!
Peanuts and peanut butter can best be described as providing a 'powerhouse of nutrition' since they are high in protein, energy and fibre, as well as offenng a generous supply of vitamins, minerals and much more.
It is only in recent years that the extent of the protective properties of peanuts has begun to be recognised.
Peanuts and peanut butter are satisfying foods to eat because they are packed with nutrients.

Despite being relatively hi\Jh in calories, they can be effective as' part of weight reducing diets. Daily snacks of peanuts have been shown to be an effective way for people of average weight to control hunger.

Peanuts and peanut butter not only taste good, they're easy to use and fit in with recommendations for healthier living. They are a convenient snack to keep handy, whether at work, on the run, or as part of a packed lunch.
Children will benefit from the nutritious boost that peanuts and peanut butter offer: as attractive snack foods they make an ideal pick-me-up,.after school for instance. Peanut butter sandwiches are always a good standby, and with fruit or salad and a glass of milk pro-vide a balanced and quick sn~ck any time of the day or night!


"Some foods once deemed to be unhealthy simply because of their fat content (eg nuts) have become important parts of diets designed to lower blood pressure and serum cholesterol, to control weight and to achieve secondary prevention of coronary artery disease, besides adding flavour, variety and texture to dishes.'"

Harvard nutrition scientist Dr Frank Hu recently reviewed the progress in our understanding of the poten-tial beneficial role of nuts as a regular part of the diet.
He concluded that" a decade of epidemiologic investigation and clinical studies has transformed the image of nuts from a fattening snack food to a wholesome and heart-healthy food'"

This research is reflected in calls from some leading nutrition experts for a new food pyramid for use in developed countries which places nuts, peanuts and other legumes much closer to the everyday base of the model, indicating that they should be seen as foods for more frequent consumption.
Doing this would reflect traditional eating patterns in Asia, Latin America and the Mediterranean which have been shown to have health benefits.


In the past concerns regarding the fat content of nuts and peanut butter have often coloured professional and consumer attitudes towards these foods.
More recently, however, nuts and peanut butter have been shown to be useful components in successful weight reduction diets, where subjects maintained their weight loss even after two-and-a-half years.
This is a powerful factor in changing attitudes

An extensive study was undertaken by Kathy McManus and colleagues at Brigham and Women's Hospital/Harvard University.
It included peanuts and peanut butter amongst the high-MUFA foods in the mod-erate fat (35% energy from fat) Mediterranean-style eat-ing programme at both 1200 and 1500 daily calorie allowances for the 101 men and women in the study.
The moderate-fat weight-loss results were considerably better than the low-fat diet results (20% energy from fat) in the longer term and there were additional nutritional benefits in the moderate-fat group such as increased consumption of vegetables and fibre.

On the American Peanut Council (APC) website samples can be viewed of the seven-day menu plans used in this study (both the 1200 and 1500 kcal versions) which have been specially adapted for the UK.


Type 2 diabetes is a growing global problem with enormous associated medical and economic implications.
In the UK about three in every 100 people have diabetes, and 75% of these have Type 2.
In the Netherlands more than 440,000 have Type 2 diabetes and the numbers are rising.
In Germany diabetes specialists recently warned that the number of peo-ple with diabetes could reach 10 million within a decade.

Across Europe generally there are many "missing mil-lions" with diabetes who have not yet been detected or treated.
Simple dietary, daily activity and weight changes are important' factors in helping to achieve diabetes risk reduction in the general population. As latest research shows, peanuts and peanut butter as part of a balanced diet have a role to play.
Scientists at the Harvard School of Public Health In Boston, USA studied the association between nut and peanut butter consumption and risk of Type 2 diabetes in 83,818 women from the Nurses' Health Study between the ages of 34 and 59 years old, with no history of diabetes, heart disease or cancer and with over 16 years of follow-up.

They found that eating nuts and eating peanut butter were inversely associated with risk of Type 2 diabetes after adjusting for age, body mass index, family history of diabetes, physical activity, smoking, alcohol use and total calorie intake.
The reduction in risk associated with nut and peanut butter eating was greatest in those who had the highest regular consumption.
Those who never/almost never ate nuts had no change in risk of developing Type 2 diabetes; those who· consumed nuts (10z/28g serving) less than once per week had an 8% lower risk; those who con-sumed nuts one to four times per week had a 16% lower risk; and those consuming nuts five or more times per week had a 27% lower risk.
Adjustments for other dietary factors, including dietary fats and cereal fibre, made no difference to the results.
Women who consumed peanut butter five or more times per week (the equivalent of five tablespoons or 75ml) had a 21 % lower risk of developing Type 2 diabetes compared with women who never or almost never ate peanut butter.

The researchers suggested that nuts and peanut butter could act to lower risk in a number of ways.
Their monounsaturated fat could positively affect Insulin sensItivity; they are rich in fibre and magnesium; they have a relatively low glycaemic index and there could be other constituents including vitamins, minerals, antioxIdants and plant protein exerting a positive effect.

On the concern over weight .gain, authors of the Harvard study concluded:
"There have been concerns that frequent nut consumption may result in weight gain and increased risk of coronary heart disease because of the high fat content.
However, in our cohort, we did not find an appreciable association between nut con-sumption and weight change...
These results contradict the conventional wisdom that intake of high-fat foods leads to obesity and heart disease".

The Harvard team's practical advice was straightforward: "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 nut consumption as a replacement for refined grain products or red or processed meats, which would avoid increasing caloric intake".
Such changes are easy to make: peanut butter is an ideal substitute for spreads high in saturated fat and a small handful of nuts is a nutrient-dense, high-satiety substitute for refined carbohydrate snacks.


Plant sterols present in nuts, seeds, peanuts and other legumes are becoming well known both for their ability to lower LDL cholesterol levels and for their cancer-inhibiting properties.

Studies from the nutrition labora-tory of Dr Atif Awad at the State. University of New York In Buffalo show the cancer-inhibiting properties and mode of action of phytosterols - particularly beta-sitos-terol, which is abundant in peanuts: Dr Awad's team has now produced evidence that phytosterols in foods such as peanuts, beans, olive oil and peanut oil appear to reduce prostate tumour growth by over 40 % and to reduce the spread of prostate cancer cells to other parts of the body by almost 50%

"These studies demonstrate for the first time," Dr Awad said, "that phytosterols that exist naturally in our diet, in foods like peanuts and beans, can protect against prostate cancer" His prevIous studies have shown that phytosterols may also offer protection from colon and breast cancer.
The results for prostate cancer were even more encouraging, both when phytosterols were used as a dietary supplement and when they were introduced directly into cancer cell cultures.

Peanuts and peanut butter help answer the question "How do I choose foods that taste good, are easy to use and fit in with recommendations for healthier living)" Because they fit with eating anytime and anywhere, they can help people eat well without spending a lot of money or taking up too much time.
This good news about peanut nutrition is an added incentive for people to come back to an old favourite, or to try them for the first time.

So if you thought pe-anuts were only for speCial occasions, now is the time to enjoy their taste and goodness more often.
No matter when or how they're eaten, the big taste of Amencan peanuts and peanut butter will surprise you.
And it's nice to know they just might be doing you some good too.

The APC website has recipes for snacks, salads and main meals incorporating peanuts and peanut butter.
Their versatility and cultural acceptability across Europe present many opportunities for consumers to incorporate these products into everyday eating and also help to reduce health risks .


1. Hu FB, "Plant-based foods and prevention of cardiovascular disease: an overview"
American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 2003; 78(suppl):544S-551 S

2. McManus K, Antinoro L and Sacks F "A randomised controlled tnal of a moderate-fat, low-energy diet com-pared with a low-fat, low-energy diet for weight loss in overweight adults"
International Journal of Obesity 2001; 25(10)1503-1511

3. Kris-Etherton P, Guixiang Zhao, Binkoskl AE, Coval SM, Etherton TO "The effects of nuts on coronary heart disease risk"
Nutrition Reviews 2001; (59(4) 103-111

4. Alper CM, Mattes RD "Peanut consumption improves indices of cardiovascular disease risk in healthy adults"
Journal of the American College of Nutrition 2003; 22(2) 133-141.

5. Jiang, R; Manson, JE; Stampfer, MJ; Liu, S; Willett, WC; Hu, FB "A prospective study of nut consumption and risk of type 2 diabetes in women".
Journal of the American Medical Association 2002 ; 288: 2554-2560.

6. Awad AB, Fink CS, Williams H, Kim U "In vitro and in vivo (SCID mice) effects of phytosterols on the growth and dissemination of human prostate cancer PC-3 cells"
European Journal of Cancer Prevention 2001; 10: 507-513;
Awad AB, Fink CS "Phytosterols as anticancer dietary components: evidence and mecha-nism of action"
Journal of Nutrition 2000; 130: 2127-2130

In this section you will find some interesting articles which illustrate the most recent research facts and figures about the properties of the peanut:

Peanut allergy: the facts > Read

USA - The peanut powerhouse > Read

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