UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA researchers have bred a peanut that has a shelf life measured in years rather than months and may even lower cholesterol. That's good news for peanut vendors: The nut's reputation as a high-fat snack prompted Delta Air Lines Inc. in 1993 to add pretzels as a healthier alternative snack on its flights.
The new breed, SunOleic 95R, offers not less fat, but a better mix of kinds of fat. Some 80% of its fatty acids are monounsaturated, compared with 50% in a normal peanut. It's lower in polyunsaturated fats and doesn't go stale from exposure to oxygen, which accounts for its longer shelf life, according to its developers, Florida professors Daniel W. Gorbet and David A. Knauft.
Rachel Shireman, a biochemist at the University of Florida, conducted a study last year on 18 postmenopausal women. She found that those who were on a low-fat diet and ate SunOleic 95R peanuts had a 10% decline in low-density lipoproteins, or "bad" cholesterol. The women's LDL also resisted oxidation, which leads to arterial plaque.