The journal of nutrition, health & aging

, Volume 18, Issue 5, pp 496–502

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

  • Jacqueline O’Brien
  • O. Okereke
  • E. Devore
  • B. Rosner
  • M. Breteler
  • F. Grodstein

DOI: 10.1007/s12603-014-0014-6

Cite this article as:
O’Brien, J., Okereke, O., Devore, E. et al. J Nutr Health Aging (2014) 18: 496. doi:10.1007/s12603-014-0014-6



Nuts contain nutrients that may benefit brain health; thus, we examined long-term intake of nuts in relation to cognition in older women.


Population-based prospective cohort study.


Academic research using data from the Nurses’ Health Study.


Nut intake was assessed in a food-frequency questionnaire beginning inl980, 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.

Main Outcome Measures

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.


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

Key words

Cognitioncognitive declinecognitive functioncohort studydietepidemiologynutrition



α-linolenic acid


body mass index


confidence interval


food-frequency questionnaire


metabolic equivalence hour


monounsaturated fatty acid


Nurses’ Health Study


polyunsaturated fatty acid


standard deviation


Telephone Interview for Cognitive Status

Copyright information

© Serdi and Springer-Verlag France 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jacqueline O’Brien
    • 1
    • 2
    • 6
  • O. Okereke
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  • E. Devore
    • 1
  • B. Rosner
    • 1
    • 4
  • M. Breteler
    • 2
    • 5
  • F. Grodstein
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Channing Division of Network Medicine, Department of MedicineBrigham & Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical SchoolBostonUSA
  2. 2.Department of EpidemiologyHarvard School of Public HealthBostonUSA
  3. 3.Department of PsychiatryBrigham & Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical SchoolBostonUSA
  4. 4.Department of BiostatisticsHarvard School of Public HealthBostonUSA
  5. 5.German Center for Neurodegenerative DiseasesBonnGermany
  6. 6.Channing Division of Network MedicineBrigham and Women’s HospitalBostonUSA