Long-term intake of nuts in relation to cognitive function in older women

Objective

Nuts contain nutrients that may benefit brain health; thus, we examined long-term intake of nuts in relation to cognition in older women. Design: Population-based prospective cohort study.

Design

Academic research using data from the Nurses’ Health Study.

Method

Nut intake was assessed in a foodfrequency questionnaire beginning in1980, and approximately every four years thereafter. Between 1995–2001, 16,010 women age 70 or older (mean age = 74 years) without a history of stroke were administered 4 repeated telephone-based cognitive interviews over 6 years. Our final sample included 15,467 women who completed an initial cognitive interview and had complete information on nut intake.

Result

The Telephone Interview for Cognitive Status (TICS), a global score averaging the results of all tests (TICS, immediate and delayed verbal recall, category fluency, and attention), and a verbal memory score averaging the results of tests of verbal recall.

In multivariable-adjusted linear regression models, higher long-term total nut intake was associated with better average cognitive status for all cognitive outcomes. For the global composite score combining all tests, women consuming at least 5 servings of nuts/week had higher scores than non-consumers (mean difference=0.08 standard units, 95% confidence interval 0.00-0.15; p-trend=0.003). This mean difference of 0.08 is equivalent to the mean difference we find between women 2 years apart in age. Long-term intake of nuts was not associated with rates of cognitive decline.

Conclusion

Higher nut intake may be related to better overall cognition at older ages, and could be an easily-modifiable public health intervention.