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Researchers from Harvard University and Brigham and Women's Hospital have confirmed that eating more nuts every day will increase cognitive skills - at least among elderly women.
For six years, the researchers followed 16,010 women who 70 years old or older, and 15,467 completed the final cognitive interviews.
The researchers utilized phone call interviews of the women to track their diets and test their cognitive skills. They used the standardized test called the Telephone Interview for Cognitive Status, or TICS. This tests for cognition using memory recall, fluency and attention testing.
The researchers found those women who consumed five servings or more of nuts each week had higher scores on their cognitive testing compared to those who did not consume nuts. The average difference in scores was 0.08 units, which is equivalent to two years of cognition decline during the aging process.
They could not correlate cognitive decline with long-term nut consumption, but the association was clear, as concluded by the researchers:
"Higher nut intake may be related to better overall cognition at older ages, and could be an easily-modifiable public health intervention."
The mechanism may be related to the fact that nuts are heart-healthy. And nut consumption has been associated with cardiovascular health and mortality in other research.
For example, another study from Harvard calculated the results of 18 studies that included over 83,000 patients with various metabolic syndrome disorders. They found in their pooled analysis that nut consumption reduced the risk of ischemic heart disease by 36%, cardiovascular disease by 30%, strokes by 9%, and death from all causes by 15%.
Nuts contain a healthy mix of fatty acids including omega-3s, and provide numerous vitamins and minerals such as vitamin E and selenium. So yes, go ahead and grab your nuts (sorry, couldn't help myself).
O'Brien J, Okereke O, Devore E, Rosner B, Breteler M, Grodstein F. Long-term intake of nuts in relation to cognitive function in older women. J Nutr Health Aging. 2014;18(5):496-502. doi: 10.1007/s12603-014-0014-6.
Luo C, Zhang Y, Ding Y, Shan Z, Chen S, Yu M, Hu FB, Liu L. Nut consumption and risk of type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and all-cause mortality: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Am J Clin Nutr. 2014 May 21. pii: ajcn.076109.