Study: Regular walnut consumption linked to healthy aging in women
A new epidemiological study found that women in their late 50s and early 60s who consumed at least two servings of walnuts per week had a greater likelihood of healthy aging compared to those who did not eat walnuts. After accounting for various factors that could impact health in older adults, such as education and physical activity, walnuts were the only nut associated with significantly better odds of healthy aging.
The study, supported by the California Walnut Commision, found that total nut consumption (particularly walnuts) was related to a greater likelihood of healthy aging, defined “healthy aging” as longevity with sound mental health and no major chronic diseases, cognitive issues or physical impairments following the age of 65.
Dr. Francine Grodstein, formerly of Brigham and Women's Hospital, found that eating walnuts may reduce risks of physical impairments and cognitive decline in older adults; and decrease cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes. There is no one solution to slowing down the effects of aging but adopting the right habits, like snacking on a handful of walnuts, can help.
Grodstein looked at data from 33,931 women in the Nurses’ Health Study (NHS) to evaluate the association between nut consumption and overall health and well-being in aging. Between 1998-2002, female NHS nurses were asked about their diet, including total nut consumption and then evaluated for chronic diseases, such as cancer, heart attack, heart failure, stroke, type 2 diabetes and Parkinson’s disease. They were also assessed for memory concerns, mental health and physical limitations, including daily activities. Of the study participants, 16% were found to be “healthy agers”, defined as having no major chronic diseases, reported memory impairment or physical disabilities and intact mental health.
Although previous research has connected a healthy diet, including walnuts, to better physical function among older men and women, this study only included women. More research is needed to understand if these results hold true among men. Participants were not assigned to eat walnuts; they were simply asked about their dietary choices. They may have misreported their dietary intake, since information was collected by questionnaires. As such, this does not prove cause and effect. It just shows that eating walnuts may be one of the simple habits that can affect health in later years of life.