Nuts are brain-boosting food for older adults

Eating a moderate amount of nuts is linked to better cognitive performance in older adults, new research has shown.

Dr Sze-Yen Tan, a researcher at the Institute for Physical Activity and Nutrition (IPAN), found there were cognitive benefits for adults over 60 who consumed half to one serving of nuts each day. 

A team of researchers led by Dr Tan analysed the nut intake and cognition of 1814 participants aged over 60 years from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys (NHANES) in the US.

For the study, participants were divided into four groups based on their daily nut consumption: non-consumers; low intake (less than half a serving of nuts or 0.1-15.0g); moderate intake (half to one serving or 15.1- 30.0g); or those who exceeded current nut recommendations (more than one serving or 30g+). Researchers then compared cognitive function, including immediate and delayed recall, verbal fluency, processing speed and attention across the groups.

Dr Tan said while the recommended daily nut intake of 30g a day had been shown to provide several health benefits for heart health, his latest study confirmed that older adults who ate half to one serving of nuts each day showed better cognitive function compared to those who did not.

Interestingly, nut consumption beyond the recommended daily intake of 30g a day did not further improve cognitive performance compared to the moderate intake group.

Dr Tan said nuts were a good source of protein, good fats, fibre, vitamins and minerals.

“Eating a handful of nuts each day is a simple dietary strategy that improves cognitive performance for older adults, among many other already well-established health benefits,” he said.

The study was funded by the INC International Nut and Dried Fruit Council.


How many nuts do you eat each day?

Dr Tan advised that the current nut recommendation of one serving, or 30g, a day delivers cognitive benefits for older people as well as bringing other health benefits.  30g of nuts is equivalent to approximately*:

20 almonds, or

15 cashews, or

10 Brazil nuts, or

10 walnuts (whole)

* Source: