Will Eating Walnuts Help Me Live Longer?

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A new study suggests that a heart-healthy diet can start with eating a handful of walnuts and that the nuts may reinforce healthy habits throughout life.

VeryWell Health’s recent article entitled, “Study: Walnuts Support Lifelong, Heart-Healthy Eating,” reports that to explore the possible long-term health benefits, researchers from the University of Minnesota School of Public Health looked for connections between nut consumption and CVD risk factors to see if walnuts may help you live longer.

The new study was published in Nutrition, Metabolism, and Cardiovascular Disease. The researchers examined data from about 3,000 young adults aged 18 to 30 enrolled in the Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults (CARDIA) study.

The researchers took the participants’ self-reported diet histories three times throughout the study: at the start (baseline), year seven, and year 20. Each individual’s physical and clinical measurements were taken at multiple exams for 30 years. Their diet histories helped researchers put them into categories based on their nut consumption:

  • 352 walnut consumers;
  • 2,494 other nut consumers; and
  • 177 no nut consumers.

The average intake of walnuts during the study was about three-fourths of an ounce a day, and the intake of other nuts among the walnut consumers and the other nut consumers was about one and ½ ounces a day. The researchers then looked at the participants’ heart disease risk factors. This included their dietary intake, smoking status, body composition, blood pressure, plasma lipids (e.g., triglycerides), fasting blood glucose and insulin concentrations.

The results demonstrated the potential positive effects of eating nuts (including walnuts) when young. After following up with participants after 30 years, the researchers noted the following:

  • Those who eat walnuts had higher self-reported physical activity scores than other nut and no-nut consumers. In addition, walnut consumption was linked to lower body mass index (BMI) and waist circumference, as well as lower blood pressure and triglyceride levels. Walnut eaters also gained less weight than other nut eaters.
  • Compared to those who did not eat nuts, walnut consumers had much lower fasting blood glucose (sugar) concentrations.
  • Walnut eaters also saw higher total diet quality scores (according to the Healthy Eating Index 2015) than other nut eaters and people who didn’t eat nuts.

Lyn Steffen, PhD, MPH, RD, an author of the study and a Professor of Epidemiology and Community Health at the University of Minnesota School of Public Health, told VeryWell that the study is one of the longest to suggest that regularly eating walnuts is linked to better health later in life.

“[The findings] reinforce that walnuts might be an easy and accessible food choice to improve a variety of heart disease risk factors when eaten in young to middle adulthood,” Steffen said.

The study also supports the latest Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which recommend incorporating nuts into your diet.

“A daily one-ounce serving—or roughly a handful—of walnuts provides a wide range of beneficial nutrients,” Steffen said. “Walnuts are the only nut that provides an excellent omega-3 alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) source.”

Walnuts are also a source of key nutrients that support our heart and overall health, including fiber, manganese, magnesium, copper, iron, calcium, zinc, potassium, vitamin B6, folate and thiamin.

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Reference: VeryWell Health (Sep. 30, 2022) “Study: Walnuts Support Lifelong, Heart-Healthy Eating”