Peanuts - Good For You?
2007-05-05 03:12:47
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The Reality Scoop on Peanut Butter

Peanuts may be detrimental for your health.


Many parents believe that a peanut butter sandwich is a good thing to pack in a lunch box, as it has for long been a nutritional truism that peanuts are  a complete meal of  proteins, carbohydrate and fats. The medical community however, has known for a while that, as a daily staple, peanut is not an ideal food, especially for  children. Peanuts produce the type of prostaglandins which cause and enhance inflammation; they increase the requirement for Omega 3 (w3) essential fatty acids, which are responsible with the formation of brain synapses and maintaining normal brain metabolism; they are likely to contain toxic molds that cause liver poisoning and Cancer;  they are highly allergenic; and, last but not the least dreadful, they are atherogenic, that is they cause arterial plaque deposits, increasing the risk of thrombosis (blood vessels raptures).


Inflammatory- Prone


Peanuts (a leguminous nut) is made of 50 percent, of which 6.34 grams per 100 grams is saturated,  24.64 monounsaturated, and 15.69 unsaturated fats in the form of linoleic acid (LA), an w6 EFA.  On the other hand, they contain  a negligible amount (0.003 g per 100g) of w3 in the form of alpha-linolenic-acid (LNA). The ratio of w6 to w3 in peanuts is huge (divide 15.69 to 0.003, the two figures given by nutritional expert Lorain Cordain, Ph.D) on her site dedicated to expounding  the paleolithic diet of our ancestors.  The two types of EFA’s, both derived from polyunsaturated fats, participate in the body’s immune system, and they oppose each other while on their own respective metabolic paths. However, the first produces the type of prostaglandins (PGs)  that cause inflammation throughout the body (the so called series 1 and 2, E1, E2) while the second brings about the so-called ‘good’  PG’s (the Series 3), which reduce inflammation . The adjectives, of course,  are misnomers, as all are absolutely essential in normal metabolism. It is the excess that makes them ‘bad.’  If we look at the many roles of PG’s, it results that most modern diseases could be traced to their excesses and imbalances.  Unfortunately the diet of many children contains a very high ratio between of w6 to w3. Most vegetable oils such as corn, sunflower, and soy, contain mostly  w6 while  the few sources of w3 such as fish, chia seeds, hemp, flax, Walnut, and brazil oils, are not common staples in our daily mayonnaise or salad dressings.

According to Udo Erasmus in his book “Fats and Heal, Fats that Kill,” the w6 consumption doubled while the w3 consumption decreased to one-sixth its 1850 level (these figures may refer to Canada, but no one doubts United States registered the same trend). Considering Cancer rates are on the increase even in children, one should also consider that w6’s enhance tumor formation and growth while w3’s inhibit them (Erasmus).

Excess of the “pro-inflammatory” PG’s compromises the immune system causing allergies, chronic respiratory problems,  joint and brain inflammation and a host of other health problems.


Intelligence, Behavior, and Mood - "The Last Meal We Ate"


The brain function directly depends on what we eat.  Jean Carper, in her wonderful book “Your Miracle Brain,” cites the  MIT research-psychiatrist Richart Wurtman stating that the brain is the only organ in the body whose chemical production depends on “the last meal we ate.” 


With their high content of linoleic acid, peanuts increase the requirement for the w3’s.  As w3’s  (specifically the w3 called DHA found in fish) are involved in neural development, the formation of brain synapses, the child on a regular peanut butter diet will greatly miss out on synapses which ultimately affects cognitive development.  The brain  synapses are largely created throughout childhood years, and most people are supposed to end up with  100 billion of them  – more or less, mainly depending on their childhood diet. Unfortunately, the political and sociological aspects of IQ measurements have mitigated or closeted the nutritional aspects of IQ development and maintenance. As Jean Carper writes, mother’s milk contains 30 times more of the w3 DHA than cow milk.  In studies with rats, the  Japanese researchers show that when  w3 is deficient in their mother’s milk, rats come out dumber than normally w3-fed rats.  Many vitamins and minerals are co-factors in normal PG’s metabolism.


 Moreover, the different type of  prostaglandins  which are formed from different types of EFA’s, are on the same metabolic path with the brain hormones serotonin and dopamine.  It is not a stretch then to infer that a fatty acid  ratio which is greatly skewed towards one side, causes an  analogue equilibrium deficiency in the brain, impacting mood and behavior.  Indeed, a number of laboratory and epidemiological studies found that people with Attention Deficit Disorder, and Depression and violent tendencies have a high ratio of these two fatty acids. 


The above should not be construed as an exhortation to eat more w3 to make up for the excess of w6.  It is the ingestion of w6 that  needs to be reduced.  Polyunsaturated fats are needed in small amounts.   Polyunsaturated fats easily become rancid and in the body they become  oxidized as well, increasing the free radical load.  Oxidation of fats is a major health hazard.  To prevent oxidation, the diet needs to be extremely rich in anti-oxidants, the many vitamins, minerals and Phytochemicals found in fruits and vegetables.  The bottom line is that the more fat we eat, the more oxidation occurs in the body and the more antioxidants we need.


Aflatoxin Poisoning


Mycotoxins are substances born from molds present in food products. Grains and legumes are especially vulnerable to these dangerous molds, and among these, peanuts is high on the list.  In fact, according the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) corn and peanuts contain the highest amount of the most dangerous mycotoxin, aflatoxinAflatoxins are compounds produced by the fungi Aspergillus flavus and A. parasiticus, and several of its strains have been long associated with liver poisoning and Cancer.  Since 1987 the International Agency for Research into Cancer (IATC) has determined the carcinogenic effect of  aflatoxins. Although many countries, including the United States, have stringent regulations regarding the maximum levels of aflatoxins allowed in the food supply  (20 ppm), once the products are on the market, little control over the fungal growth can be exercised.  The amount of aflatoxin will depend on the length of storage, humidity, temperature, light and mode of preparation, but with present technology is it impossible to get rid of entirely. Imported peanuts and peanut-filled and -coated snacks, may pose a greater risk due to the length of time from crop to consumer, and a lack of adequate safety regulations in many third world countries.


The most potent strain of aflatoxin is the so-called aflatoxin B1, which is recognized as a major cause of Liver Cell Cancer (LCC).  Although other strains have been correlated with incidences of liver Cancer, according to the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC),only the B1 is widely acknowledged.


The symptoms of acute aflatoxicosis are very dramatic, as major organ failure occurs: Vomiting, Abdominal Pain, accumulation of water in the lungs and brain (pulmonary and cerebral Edema), convulsions, coma, and death from liver, kidneys and/of  heart failure.


Since there is no way to totally avoid the aflatoxins, peanuts (and grains) are regulated in this country for a minimum amount of aflatoxin, however there haven’t been any widely cited studies on the accumulation of low levels of aflatoxins in the body, especially in children who in general eat more peanuts, weigh less,  have a more rapid metabolism, and undergo immune system and neural development. The susceptibility to Liver Disease depends of the individual’s health condition, however, the very young is usually the most vulnerable.  The danger of a poisonous substance in the body is enhanced when the immune system is not adequate, which is mostly the case of a child fed a diet high in processed foods and low in fruits and vegetables, containing  a high w6 to w3 ratio.


According to the Canadian government food inspection authority, roasting of the peanuts destroys about half of the aflatoxin content. Those peanuts that contain dark colors and Bruises are more likely to contain higher amounts of alfatoxins and should be discarded. While roasting may reduce aflatoxin, the heating of fats produces oxidation, which again is a major factor  in  atherosclerosis. Refrigeration may slow down the growth of aflatoxin but would not prevent it.


During the rainy seasons, or after a flood, humidity sets in among crops, increasing the fungal content. There is no known feasible technology that can achieve a harvest devoid of mycotoxins.   In cases of overgrowth, the product is supposed to be discarded, or mixed with a cleaner product to bring the toxin percentage down.  Grains with unacceptable levels of aflatoxins are fed to cattle and swine.  Besides peanuts, the most mycotoxin-vulnerable common food item is corn.  Studies on long-term effect of accumulation of low elvels of aflatoxin in children are due.  A high rate of diabetes overall, and among the Hispanic population specifically, is an epidemiological health puzzle.


Arterial Damage


When scientists set up to study arteriosclerosis in laboratory animals, they feed the animals under study saturated fat and peanut butter.  The peanut atherogenic property has been demonstrated in studies with rabbits, rats and primates. Peanuts are rich in polyunsaturated fats and on this account, theoretically, they should lower Cholesterol and prevent arterial plaque.  In fact they  enhance plaque formation.  In several articles published in the journal Lipids in the late 1990’s, Kritchevsky D. and his colleagues proposed that peanut’s high content of the substances called lectins, are the source of the sclerosis effect. According to these researchers, the crude peanut oil may contain about 858 to 2983 micrograms of lectin per Kg, while the refined oils contain 22 to 55 micrograms of its biologically active form. According to Kritchevsky, washing the peanut thoroughly reduces the lectin content by 46 percent.


Satchithanandam S.and colleagues from the FDA division of science propose  that other substances, such as triglygerides that form in the blood with ingesting high amounts of fats may explain the phenomenon.  The fact remains that, in spite of the high content of polyunsaturated oils,  peanut has been shown to be highly atherogenic.  Peanut butter and hard cheeses are often practical to offer as snacks and children love them, however, such fare is experimentally used to induce plaque in laboratory animals.  And one should consider the fact that animals are more protected than us against plaque as, during times of stress, their internal production of vitamin C increases to 30-fold or more. Humans, on account of their ancestral diet of high vegetable and fruit have lost the capacity to produce vitamin C. 


The damage to the arteries is not a surprise for everyone, however. While it is true that polyunsaturated oils are considered less “sticky” in the blood,  on account of their long chains breaking down easily,  as explained above, they are also easily oxidized, a major factor in arterial damage.





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