New research shows peanut and peanut butter consumption offers cognitive benefits and reduces stress in young adults


“Improvements in memory function and stress response after regular consumption of peanuts and peanut butter appear to be linked to the mental health effects of bioactive compounds such as resveratrol and p-coumaric found in peanuts, as well as the increased level of short chain fatty acids and very long chain saturated fatty acids in plasma and feces associated with peanut consumption, ”says Dr Rosa M Lamuela-Raventós, principal investigator of the University of Barcelona.

The randomized controlled trial with three arms and parallel groups was conducted from November 2019 To june 2020 with 63 healthy participants (44 women and 19 men) aged 18 to 33. The participants, who were mostly students, came from University of Barcelona in Spain and consumed either 25 grams per day of roasted peanuts with the skin on or two tablespoons (32 grams) per day of peanut butter or two tablespoons (32 grams) per day of a control butter. The control had a macronutrient composition similar to roasted peanuts and peanut butter, but was free from phenolics and fiber. Consumption of the peanut products began after a two-week peanut-free period prior to the study.

The study participants followed their usual diet and consumed the peanut products at all times of the day. Wine, grapes, dark chocolate with more than 70% cocoa content, and berries were excluded from the participants’ diet due to their high levels of resveratrol, an antioxidant found in peanuts. In addition, other nuts were excluded from the diet.

“This new research involves a group of young participants and highlights the possible mental and cognitive health benefits of a relatively small daily serving of peanuts or peanut butter,” says Dr. Samara Sterling, a nutrition scientist and research director for The peanut institute. “When you break down the nutritional structure of peanuts, they contain a unique combination of vitamins, minerals, and bioactive compounds, including resveratrol, niacin, vitamin E, and coumaric acid, which can help with cognition and health. Mental Health.”

At the start and end of the study, trained personnel assessed participants’ cognitive function, administering a wide range of validated neuropsychological tests and mood disorder questionnaires in a standard order. The tests assessed the three main cognitive domains – memory, executive function, and processing speed. The hospital anxiety and depression scale, validated for the Spanish population, was also used to detect anxiety states and depressive states.

Biological samples (fasting blood, 24-hour urine, and faeces) were taken before the start of the study as a baseline and after six months of study participation. Participants were also contacted three months after the start of the research to encourage their continued adherence to the study parameters.

“This is one-of-a-kind research that highlights the potential ‘brain benefits’ of consuming peanuts and peanut butter in a younger population,” says Dr Sterling. “The results show that a small addition to the diet can have a significant impact.”

The research was carried out by Dr Rosa M. Lamuela-Raventós and her team at the University of Barcelona (Department of Nutrition, Food Sciences and Gastronomy, XIA, Faculty of Pharmacy and Food Sciences, at INSA-University of Barcelona and CIBEROBN).

Previous research supports the cognitive benefits of peanuts and peanut butter

While the ARISTOTLE study conducted by the University of Barcelona was primarily among college-aged students, previous studies have focused on the benefits of peanut and peanut butter consumption among the elderly.

A 2021 study published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease Prevention found that adults aged 60 to 80 who did not eat peanuts and peanut butter regularly were 30 to 50% more likely to score poorly on tests measuring learning, memory, language, motor speed of processing (the time it takes to process and react to information) and attention to those who did.2

In a separate 2018 study of adults 55 and older, higher cognitive scores were associated with consuming just one serving (10 grams) of nuts per day, as well as a 40% decrease the likelihood of poor cognitive function.3

The researchers point to the polyphenols and various fatty acids in peanuts that likely contributed to these results. Additional vitamins, minerals, and bioactive compounds found in peanuts that are beneficial for brain health include:

  • Niacin: In a study of adults 65 and older, those who consumed more niacin showed a slower rate of cognitive decline and a 70% reduced risk of Alzheimer’s disease4 – peanuts are an excellent source of niacin.
  • Vitamin E: Found to promote healthy brain aging and delay cognitive decline caused by Alzheimer’s disease.5 Peanuts are considered a “good source” of vitamin E.
  • Resveratrol: Bioactive present in peanuts, resveratrol would be beneficial in the fight against Alzheimer’s disease and other degenerative diseases of the nerves.6
  • p-Coumaric acid: An antioxidant that appears to target neurotransmitters in the brain that regulate mood, stress, and anxiety. In 2014, the authors of a study on p– coumaric acid noted that it might have similar effects in reducing stress as the main anti-anxiety drug, diazepam.7

Even peanut skins have been shown to offer benefits. A 2016 randomized controlled trial found that peanuts eaten with the skin on improved both cerebrovascular and cognitive functions in both men and women.8

“This new search for University of Barcelona supports the growing evidence for ‘food as medicine’ and the benefits that healthy food choices can have on young and old, ”Sterling says. “Peanuts and peanut butter are an affordable and versatile way to stock up on vitamins and minerals that can promote cognitive and mental health.

This research was funded by the Peanut Institute 2019, CICYT [AGL2016- 75329-R], CIBEROBN of the Instituto de Hi Carlos III, ISCIII du Ministerio de Ciencia, Innovación y Universidades, (AEI / FEDER, EU) and Generalitat de Catalunya (GC) [2017SGR 196]. None of the funders played a role in the study design, implementation, analysis or interpretation of the data, or the writing of the manuscript.

Situated at Albany, Georgia., The peanut institute is a non-profit organization supporting nutrition research and developing educational programs to encourage healthy lifestyles that include peanuts and peanut products. The Peanut Institute pursues its mission through research programs, educational initiatives and the promotion of healthy lifestyles to consumers of all ages. As an independent forum, the Peanut Institute is uniquely placed to work with all segments of the food industry, the research community, academia, consumer organizations and government institutions.


  1. Parilli-Moser, I., et al. Consumption of peanut products improves memory and stress response in healthy adults from the ARISTOTLE study: a 6-month randomized controlled trial. Clinical nutrition, 2021.
  2. Katzman, EW, Nielsen, SJ The association between peanut and peanut butter consumption and cognitive function in older people living in the community. J Prev Alzheimers Dis (2021).
  3. Li, M., Shi, Z. A prospective association of nut consumption with cognitive function in Chinese adults aged 55 and older _ China Health and Nutrition Survey. J Nutr Health Aging 23, 211-216 (2019).
  4. Morris MC, Evans DA, Bienias JL, Scherr PA, Tangney CC, Hebert LE, Bennett DA, Wilson RS, Aggarwal N. Dietary niacin and the risk of Alzheimer’s disease incidence and cognitive decline. J Neurol Neurosurgery Psychiatry. August 2004; 75 (8): 1093-9. doi: 10.1136 / jnnp.2003.025858. PMID: 15258207; PMCID: PMC1739176.
  5. La Fata G, Weber P, Mohajeri MH. Effects of vitamin E on cognitive performance in aging and in Alzheimer’s disease. Nutrients. 2014; 6 (12): 5453-5472. Posted on November 28, 2014. doi: 10.3390 / nu6125453
  6. Chen J, Zhou Y, Mueller-Steiner S, Chen LF, Kwon H, Yi S, Mucke L, Gan L. SIRT1 protects against microglia-dependent beta-amyloid toxicity by inhibiting NF-kappaB signaling. J Biol Chem. 2005 December 2; 280 (48): 40364-74. doi: 10.1074 / jbc.M509329200. Published online September 23, 2005. PMID: 16183991.
  7. Scheepens A, Bisson JF, Skinner M. p-Coumaric acid activates the GABA-A receptor in vitro and is oral anxiolytic in vivo. Phytother Res. February 2014; 28 (2): 207-11. doi: 10.1002 / ptr.4968. Published online March 26, 2013. PMID: 23533066.
  8. Barbour JA, Howe PRC, Buckley JD, Bryan J, Coates AM. Cerebrovascular and cognitive benefits of consuming high oleic peanuts in healthy overweight middle-aged adults. Nutr Neurosci. 2017 Dec; 20 (10): 555-562. doi: 10.1080 / 1028415X.2016.1204744. Online publication 2016 July 7. PMID: 27386745.

THE SOURCE University of Barcelona


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