Brain research: walnuts slow down cognitive decline

Brain research: walnuts slow down cognitive decline

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Walnut consumption slows down cognitive decline among high-risk groups

According to a recent study, eating walnuts can help slow the cognitive decline in aging. This was particularly evident in older people with an increased risk of cognitive loss.

Researchers at Loma Linda University in California showed in a two-year study that regular consumption of walnuts can help slow the decline in cognitive performance in older people. The research results were published in the "American Journal of Clinical Nutrition".

Walnuts especially recommended for older smokers

Around 640 older adults took part in a two-year study that examined the effect of regular walnut consumption on brain health. The participants had to incorporate walnuts into their diet every day throughout the study period. It was shown that older people who were at increased risk of cognitive loss particularly benefited from eating walnuts. For example, there is an increased risk among smokers. However, the effects on brain health were minor in healthy individuals.

Where does the protective effect of walnut come from?

The researchers blame the omega-3 fatty acids and polyphenols in the walnuts for the effect. Both substances are seen as opponents of oxidative stress and inflammation - essential drivers of cognitive decline.

Nuts lower cholesterol and heart disease risk

The research team was led by Dr. med. Joan Sabaté headed. She is a professor of nutrition and epidemiology and was involved in the discovery of the cholesterol-lowering effect of nuts. The results were first published in 1993 in the New England Journal of Medicine. In another study, the team around Sabaté showed a connection between nut consumption and a lower risk of heart disease.

Largest study to date on walnuts and cognition

The nutritionist emphasizes that the current study is the largest and best controlled study to date on the effects of walnuts on cognition. The study leader also points out that the results may be better if consumption is viewed over a longer period than two years.

"Based on our results, further research is definitely warranted, particularly for disadvantaged groups who may benefit most from the addition of walnuts and other nuts to their diet," concludes Sabaté. (vb)

Author and source information

This text corresponds to the specifications of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.

Graduate editor (FH) Volker Blasek


  • Joan Sabaté, Aleix Sala-Vila, Cinta Valls-Pedret, u.a .: Effect of a 2-year diet intervention with walnuts on cognitive decline. The Walnuts And Healthy Aging (WAHA) study: a randomized controlled trial; in: American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2020,
  • Loma Linda University: Walnuts may slow cognitive decline in at-risk elderly (published: January 17th, 2020),
  • Sabate et al: Effects of Walnuts on serum lipid levels and blood pressure in normal men; in New England Journal of Medicine, 1993,

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