A handful of nuts a day can help to prevent death from diabetes,  cancer and heart disease, say Dutch scientists Jeremy Weate/Flickr

Snacking on a handful of nuts a day could reduce the chances of dying from diabetes, cancer and heart disease, according to Dutch researchers.

The researchers at Maastricht University discovered the health benefits for people who ate around 10g of nuts or peanuts per day, according to the International Journal of Epidemiology.

Epidemiologist Professor Piet van den Brandt, who led the study at Maastricht University, said the findings were "remarkable".

"A higher intake was not associated with further reduction in mortality risk," he added.

"This was also supported by a meta-analysis of previously published studies together with the Netherlands Cohort Study, in which cancer and respiratory mortality showed this same dose-response pattern."

Peanut butter
Peanuts are fine, but peanut butter is a definite no-no Wiki

The research was carried out in conjunction with the Netherlands Cohort Study, which started in 1986.

The nut-eating habits of more than 120,000 Dutch men and women aged between 55 and 69 were recorded.

Regular nut-eaters tended to be younger, had a higher level of education, drank more alcohol and ate more fruit and vegetables. They were also more likely to be health, err, nuts and took supplements.

But you can forget slathering the peanut butter on your toast, because, the spoilsport scientists say, it contains salt and trans fatty acids that inhibit the protective effects of peanuts.