Peanuts

Todd Moody, on the Paleofood list (19 October 2002), discusses peanuts thus: Peanuts are edible raw, so they pass that test.  They are Western Hemisphere foods, so they fail that test.  From a human health point of view, peanut oil appears to be atherogenic in animal studies.  I am not aware of any correlation between eating whole peanuts and atherogenesis.  In fact, studies of nut consumption generally includes peanuts, and it is pretty well established that nut consumption has a protective effect, at least against fatal heart attacks.  Moreover, the conjecture that the atherogenic effect of peanut oil is caused by lectins is just that: a conjecture.  There are other conjectures out there as well, such as the theory that a particular triglyceride in peanut oil is structurally unusual and that is causing the problem.

As far as I know, the only known health problems attributable to peanuts are (a) serious allergic reactions to them in some people (important but not different from similar reactions some people have to shellfish or strawberries), and (b) aflatoxin-caused cancer, if the peanuts are raised and/or stored under damp or mouldy conditions. 

Moody also refers to a study of liver cancer rates (liver cancer is associated with aflatoxin) in two parts of Africa where peanut consumption was high (as it is in many parts of  Africa, since it has become a cash crop there).  In one region liver cancer rates were high; in the other region they were low.  In the first region, the climate was damp; in the second it was arid.  This is one reason why peanuts have become a cash crop in Africa, in fact.  They can be grown under a wide variety of conditions.

So, there is a sound reason for avoiding peanuts.  However, the classification of peanuts as Paleo or not is logically tied to whether or not one classifies Western Hemisphere foods in general as Paleo or not - since none of them were available to be eaten for a significant duration by our Paleolithic ancestors.

Moody had commented the previous year (4 June 2001) on peanuts: We care about carbs because of their effect on insulin, and some beans have extremely low glycemic and insulin index scores -- notably lentils and peanuts -- as low as or lower than meats. This indicates that one could still achieve excellent insulin control even while making moderate use of beans.

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