A healthier and more resilient peanut may soon be in your grocery store.
The new OLé peanut is a project developed by Oklahoma State University (OSU) and funded by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA). The peanut has been engineered to be better than other peanuts on the market in a variety of ways.
The name “OLé” comes from the oleic acid content of the peanut. Oleic acid is a monounsaturated, omega-9 fatty acid most notably found in olive oil. Not only does the high oleic acid content dramatically increase the shelf life of the OLé peanut, oleic acid has been linked to other health benefits.
“For years, we have known that consumption of monounsaturated fats, like oleic acid found in olive oil, and the other fats named below, can help lower LDL (low-density lipoprotein) — the unhealthy fat — and may help raise our HDL (high-density lipoprotein),” said Dr. Dana Hunnes, senior dietitian at the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, in an email interview with dailyRx News. “It is also thought that oleic acid may help reduce blood pressure, and possibly certain cancers.”
According to an article in Modern Farmer, high-oleic peanuts have been around since 1995. The OLé peanut is different, however, for other reasons.
First, researchers at OSU engineered the peanut to be more resilient to diseases like pod rot and Sclerotinia blight. This may mean more peanuts on the market with reduced use of potentially harmful fungicides — at less cost to the farmers.
Second, the OLé peanut reportedly produces a higher number of peanuts per acre.
While the new peanut may be better in terms of healthy fats and resilience to disease, Dr. Hunnes warned that consumers should still consume in moderation, as more long-term studies are needed.
“Theoretically, it seems like eating higher oleic acid content should improve someone’s health by lowering LDL cholesterol and possibly raising HDL cholesterol,” she said. "But, to the extent that OLé peanuts do that significantly more than regular peanuts is unknown. Usually, long-term prospective studies are required to truly identify whether a product can improve someone’s overall health, and dietary studies are really difficult, because you may not necessarily know which factors of a diet are responsible [for affecting someone’s health].
“And, remember, calories also are an important component to an individual’s overall health. So, if you eat too many OLé peanuts because of the oleic acid content, but are gaining weight, the harm of the weight gain will likely outweigh the benefits of the oleic acid.”