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

Cognition cognitive decline cognitive function cohort study diet epidemiology nutrition 



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


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

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

Personalised recommendations