Long-term intake of nuts in relation to cognitive function in older women
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- 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 wordsCognition cognitive decline cognitive function cohort study diet epidemiology nutrition
body mass index
metabolic equivalence hour
monounsaturated fatty acid
Nurses’ Health Study
polyunsaturated fatty acid
Telephone Interview for Cognitive Status