School of Public Health study finds that eating walnuts improves senior nutrition

Walnuts are found to improve senior nutrition, according to a study from Loma Linda University’s School of Public Health. Courtesy photo

James Ponder

Special to Valley News

A Loma Linda University School of Public Health study published Aug. 23 in the online edition of the British Journal of Nutrition found that seniors who added walnuts to their diet were more likely to make other favorable modifications to their nutrient profile than seniors who did not add walnuts to their diet.

Dr. Edward Bitok, an assistant professor of nutrition at LLU School of Allied Health Professions, was a graduate student at the School of Public Health at the time the two-year study was conducted. The study’s findings were incorporated into his doctoral thesis.

Bitok said the goal of the study, which included 317 participants, was to assess what happens to the overall nutrient profile when independent adults on self-selected diets incorporate a noticeable amount of walnuts into their diet.

Dr. Joan Sabate, director of the Center for Nutrition, Lifestyle and Disease Prevention at the School of Public Health, has been researching walnuts for decades. He found that daily walnut consumption reduces serum cholesterol in seniors that walnuts are high in an omega-3 fatty acid that improves neuron function and that they contain antioxidants and phytochemicals with anti-aging effects.

“We hypothesize that walnuts may have a favorable effect in delaying the well-known age-related cognitive decline among elderly people,” Sabate said.

Bitok noted that the act of incorporating walnuts into a daily diet is a simple strategy for addressing declining nutrient intake in older adults. He also said walnuts promote cardiovascular health without any adverse effects on body weight.

Bitok and his colleagues learned that participants who ate walnuts reported significantly higher dietary intake of total protein, vegetable protein, polyunsaturated fatty acids and omega-3 fatty acids. Participants in the group that did not eat walnuts were found to have consumed significantly more carbohydrates, saturated fats, sodium and animal protein. The two groups did not differ significantly in the intake of dietary calcium, zinc, potassium, folate or vitamins B6, B12, E and D.

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