Eating walnuts may be the ticket to a longer life

BOSTON, Mass. — Walnuts may be the healthy snack that really is the key to a longer life. New research from a team at Harvard University has discovered a link between eating more walnuts and a longer lifespan and lower overall risk of death among older adults.

“What we’ve learned from this study is that even a few handfuls of walnuts per week may help promote longevity, especially among those whose diet quality isn’t great to begin with. It’s a practical tip that can be feasible for a number of people who are looking to improve their health, which is top of mind for many people,” says lead investigator Yanping Li from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in a media release.

Researchers report that consuming five or more servings of walnuts per week may provide the biggest longevity boost. Nutritionists consider one ounce of walnuts to be one serving. Eating five or more servings weekly shows a connection to a 14-percent drop in the risk of death from all causes. Study authors also discovered a 25-percent lower risk of death from cardiovascular disease and a 1.3-year increase in life expectancy in comparison to people who never eat walnuts.

Even a small walnut snack can add a year to your life!

Meanwhile, eating two to four servings of walnuts per week is quite beneficial as well; contributing to a 13-percent lower risk of all-cause death, a four-percent lower risk of death from heart disease, and a gain in roughly one year of life.

Even if the rest of your diet has room for improvement, study authors say eating just a half-serving of walnuts per day can lower the risk of all-cause death by 12 percent and heart disease risk by 26 percent.

To reach these findings, the research team analyzed data on 67,014 women originally collected by the Nurses’ Health Study. Those women had an average of 63.6 years-old. Meanwhile, study authors also analyzed data on 26,326 older men from the Health Professionals Follow-up Study. Both groups also completed a survey on their walnut consumption as well.

All of those participants were generally healthy at the start, with researchers checking on their diets every four years for roughly 20 years. With all that information in hand, researchers were able to draw a connection between walnut consumption and life expectancy.

Researchers note these findings are ultimately observational, and cannot definitively establish if walnuts are directly responsible for longer lifespans. Despite that, the work still makes a strong case that eating walnuts helps promote a longer lifespan and healthier lifestyle in general. Most people who reported eating a lot of walnuts also had a healthier overall diet, exercised often, took multivitamins, and only drank alcohol occasionally.

The findings appear in the journal Nutrients.