Texas State study shows walnut consumption associated with better cognitive health

Research and Innovation

Jayme Blaschke | July 28, 2020

bishop in class
Nicholas Bishop, Ph.D., assistant professor of human development and family sciences at Texas State University.

Walnut consumption may be associated with better cognitive health in older adults, according to a recent study conducted by researchers at Texas State University and the University of Texas at Austin.

The study published this month in Public Health Nutrition found that older adults who reported consumption of walnuts had better cognitive function at baseline measurement than older adults who did not report consuming walnuts. Walnuts were not associated with change in cognitive function, preventing the researchers from suggesting that walnut intake may prevent older adults from experiencing non-normative cognitive decline.

The study examined 3,632 American adults age 65 and older and measured global cognitive function using the Telephone Interview of Cognitive Status. Walnut intake was reported in 2013 and cognitive function was measured in 2012, 2014 and 2016.

Walnuts contain omega-3 fatty acids that play a crucial role in enzymatic activity and the stability and signaling of neurons in the brain, as well at Vitamin E which is an antioxidant that may reduce the risk of cognitive impairment.

Nicholas Bishop, Ph.D., assistant professor of human development and family sciences at Texas State and the study’s principal investigator, said that this was one of the first studies to examine whole walnut consumption as a predictor of cognitive change in a nationally representative sample of older adults.

“While these results do not suggest that walnut consumption can be promoted as means of preventing cognitive decline in older adults, the association between cognitive function and any walnut intake at baseline measurement remained meaningful when accounting for relevant demographic, socioeconomic, behavioral and health factors,” Bishop said. “Though longer follow-up periods need to be considered, our results support exiting research finding nut intake to be associated with initial cognition but not cognitive change.”

The reported study was funded by a grant from the California Walnut Commission, which had no input in the study design, data collection, analyses or writing and submission of the manuscript. This study can be found at the following link: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32618237/.

For more information, contact University Communications:

Jayme Blaschke, 512-245-2555

Sandy Pantlik, 512-245-2922