Study reveals new potential of peanuts

Peanut_blogA new study is showing that eating the skinless inner kernels of peanuts may improve a person’s gut bacteria and their ability to ward off E. coli and Salmonella infections.

Published in the Journal of Food Science, researchers at the University of Maryland say this is because skinless peanuts have a prebiotic-like effect and the gut bacteria they promote, outcompetes pathogenic foodborne bacteria from taking over.

However, the researchers also found that when the skin is left on peanuts, the opposite occurred and the skin actually inhibited the growth of beneficial microbes and promoted the growth of E. coli and Salmonella.

The idea to study peanuts for their effect on bacteria was inspired by high-profile Salmonella outbreaks in recent years linked to peanut butter, Debabrata Biswas, Ph.D. and co-author of the study said in an article. The study first began with researching the effects peanut flour (made from the kernel) and peanut skin extract had on three probiotic strains of Lactobacillus alongside harmful foodborne pathogens.

As stated in the article, the peanut flour contributed to the healthy growth of Lactobacillus casei, which outcompetes harmful pathogens by both occupying space on intestinal walls and by producing antimicrobial metabolites to exclude pathogens. In fact, E. coli growth was reduced by nearly 10 times within 48 hours in the presence of peanut flour.

Peanut skin extract, however, was associated with inhibited growth of beneficial bacteria, which can allow harmful bacteria to flourish.

Next, the research team plans to look deeper into the growth of Lactobacillus in the presence of peanut flour and peanut skin extract, as more research is needed especially on peanut skins. Biswas said in the article that this and other research may prove especially valuable as strains of foodborne pathogens continue to develop resistance to antibiotic drugs.

In another study, published in this month’s JAMA Internal Medicine, findings associated consumption of peanuts and tree nuts with decreased mortality overall, and decreased mortality due to heart disease.

The study concluded that the consumption of nuts, particularly peanuts, may be considered a cost-effective measure to improve cardiovascular health.

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