It is associated more with the picada than with a healthy snack, but like walnuts, almonds and other dried fruits, the peanut has benefits to bring within the framework of a healthy diet.

Now a recent study published in the journal Clinical Nutrition adds new insights into the association between peanut consumption and positive effects on cognitive function and stress response in young and healthy people.

Rich in energy

Peanuts are technically a legume because they grow in a pod, but it is classified as a dried fruit because its fat concentration is higher than that of dried legumes and it contains a lower proportion of protein and carbohydrates.

It is also a food that arouses great nutritional interest because it is rich in fatty acids, proteins, fiber, polyphenols and other potentially beneficial bioactive compounds for health.

The study, led by Rosa M. Lamuela, director of the INSA-UB and professor at the Faculty of Pharmacy and Food Sciences of the University of Barcelona (Spain), was carried out with a group of 63 healthy people out of 19 and 33 years, which included a regular serving of peanut products in your daily intake.

“Most of the nutritional intervention studies have been carried out in a population with obesity, metabolic syndrome or at risk of chronic metabolic disease. In this population that is at risk, it is easier to observe a beneficial effect changing the eating pattern or introducing a healthy food in their usual diet “, argued the researcher as to why this time they had focused on people without health problems.

“In the study we observed the beneficial effect of the daily intake of peanut products in the improvement of cognitive function and the response to stress in a young and healthy population, a group in which any effect on health is more difficult to observe, “said Lamuela, member of the Center for Biomedical Research in Physiopathology of Obesity and Nutrition Networking (CIBEROBN).

Undisputed in bites, peanuts can also be a healthy snack. Photo Shutterstock.

Peanut consumption

The team analyzed the potential health effects of peanut consumption across a large battery of cognitive and analytical tests related to biochemical indicators of the stress response (such as cortisol).

The results also revealed an increase in short-chain fecal fatty acids ─of the microbiota─, in addition to specific biomarkers of this nut, long-chain saturated fatty acids and certain polyphenols, all of them bioactive compounds related to multiple health benefits.

According to the conclusions of the study, the compounds that could contribute to the health effects described by the researchers are some bioactive compounds such as resveratrol and p-coumaric acid, as well as short chain fatty acids and chain saturated fatty acids long peanut specific.

Peanuts are rich in fatty acids, proteins, fiber, polyphenols, and other bioactive compounds.  Photo Shutterstock.

Peanuts are rich in fatty acids, proteins, fiber, polyphenols, and other bioactive compounds. Photo Shutterstock.

Peanuts and gut microbiota

The team also looked at whether introducing peanut products into a healthy diet could have a positive impact on the axis microbiota-gut-brain and thus contribute to the prevention of future diseases.

“In the scientific literature there is evidence on the bidirectional relationship between phenolic compounds and the intestinal microbiota. Some authors observed a improved brain and general health after an intervention rich in polyphenols “, stated Sara Hurtado, another of the authors of the work.

“The prebiotic substance present in peanuts – like polyphenols – can affect cognition and mood indirectly through interactions with the gut microbiota and thus improve the microbiota-gut-brain axis, “he noted.

To corroborate these nutritional study results, the team included in the study a control group given a placebo with a peanut oil base and the same macronutrient composition as peanut butter, but without prebiotic substances and it was found that it did not have the same beneficial effect.

“The high content of prebiotic fiber and polyphenols in peanuts could explain their beneficial effects on the intestinal microbiota. Due to their poor absorption, fiber and most polyphenols go directly to the colon, where they are metabolized by the microbiota. Subsequently, they can modulate brain biochemistry as neurotransmitters of the central nervous system, “said Hurtado.

And he added: “Short chain fatty acids – such as acetic, propionic and butyric acids – are the main metabolites produced by the intestinal microbiota and seem to have effects against various diseases, such as depression and neurodegenerative diseases “.

Peanut butter or pasta.  Photo Shutterstock.

Peanut butter or pasta. Photo Shutterstock.

The Research Group on Natural Polyphenols and other Bioactive Components present in Foods led by Lamuela stands out for its trajectory in the study of polyphenols in food and biological samples. In future works it seeks to deepen the study of the mechanisms involved in the microbiota-intestine-brain axis derived from the consumption of peanut products.

The article published in Clinical Nutrition daring promising results requiring confirmation in studies conducted in larger groups of people.

The work had the participation of members of the Hospital Clínic de Barcelona and IDIBAPS. And it is framed within the ARISTOTLE project, an initiative to analyze the prebiotic and postbiotic effects of the consumption of peanut products promoted by The Peanut Institute, in the United States.

It also had the support of companies linked to the food sector that did not participate in the experimental design or the research protocol of the study.

Recipes with peanuts

-Peanut butter

-Cereal bars with peanuts and oats

-Cereal bars with peanuts and honey

-Peanut shoots

-Toffee Cake by Damián Betular

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