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

Abstract

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.

Setting

Academic research using data from the Nurses’ Health Study.

Participants

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.

Results

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.

Conclusions

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

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Abbreviations

ALA:

α-linolenic acid

BMI:

body mass index

CI:

confidence interval

FFQ:

food-frequency questionnaire

MET-h:

metabolic equivalence hour

MUFA:

monounsaturated fatty acid

NHS:

Nurses’ Health Study

PUFA:

polyunsaturated fatty acid

SD:

standard deviation

TICS:

Telephone Interview for Cognitive Status

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Correspondence to Jacqueline O’Brien.

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O’Brien, J., Okereke, O., Devore, E. et al. Long-term intake of nuts in relation to cognitive function in older women. J Nutr Health Aging 18, 496–502 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12603-014-0014-6

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Key words

  • Cognition
  • cognitive decline
  • cognitive function
  • cohort study
  • diet
  • epidemiology
  • nutrition