Eating walnuts may help slow cognitive decline in at-risk groups of the elderly population. Women in their late 50s and early 60s who consumed at least two servings of walnuts per week had a greater likelihood of healthy ageing compared to those who did not eat walnuts, researchers have found.
In the study, published in the Journal of Aging Research, “healthy ageing” was defined as longevity with sound mental health and no major chronic diseases, cognitive issues or physical impairments following the age of 65.
Previous research found that eating walnuts may have a positive impact on reducing the risk for physical impairments in older adults as well as cognitive decline.
Additionally, others in the same research group have found decreases in cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes – all conditions that become more common as we age.
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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.
In this study, the researcher Francine Grodstein from Brigham and Women’s Hospital in the US, 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 nurses in the NHS were asked about their diet (including total nut consumption); evaluated for chronic diseases (such as cancer, heart attack, heart failure, stroke, type 2 diabetes and Parkinson’s disease); and assessed for memory concerns, mental health and physical limitations (including daily activities like walking one block, climbing a flight of stairs, bathing, dressing oneself and pushing a vacuum cleaner).
Of the study participants, 16 per cent were found to be “healthy agers,” defined as having no major chronic diseases, reported memory impairment or physical disabilities as well as having 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.
According to the researchers, more research is needed to understand if these results hold true among men.
Additionally, participants were not assigned to eat walnuts or other foods; they were simply asked about their dietary choices.
As an observational study, this does not prove cause and effect. However, the research does shed light on simple habits that can influence health during later years in life – such as eating walnuts, the researchers said.