The Peanut Butter Cure for Obesity? Not Exactly

Heath reporters want us to believe this week that peanuts and peanut butter may be the answer for obesity. Here’s a small sample of recent headlines:

That last headline comes from the University of Houston, which should know better. But as is too often the case, we have a university press office issuing a sensational press release that misrepresents research and makes the university look bad.

In fact, it’s not clear that this study proves anything of significance about peanuts and obesity. It is described as “a secondary analysis of children enrolled in a longitudinal study.” The authors found that subjects who self-reported eating more peanuts and peanut butter had lower BMIs after six months of a school-based intervention. But because the study is a secondary analysis with an observational design, it proves nothing about cause and effect.

Add this finding to the long list of associations observed between variations in dietary behaviors and BMI. But don’t be deceived into thinking that there’s any evidence peanut butter will prevent childhood obesity.

To read the study, click here. For the primary study from which this secondary analysis sprang, click here.

PB&J, photograph © Tamara / flickr

Subscribe by email to follow the accumulating evidence and observations that shape our view of health, obesity, and policy.


March 8, 2016