Adding walnuts to your diet could help you live longer

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It seems everyone is on a quest for the secret to adding years to their life while reducing the risk of age-related diseases.

Much is spoken about the type of foods to avoid, which include saturated and processed foods, but what about the foods to include in your diet for a long and healthy life?

Fruits and vegetables will always be on the list, but so are seeds and particularly nuts.

As with most things, not all nuts are created equal with some having a far higher fat content.

But one such nut comes out on top, with numerous health experts recommending eating walnuts in moderation to stave off age-related diseases.

Researchers who have studied diet history for over 20 years have praised walnuts for their countless health benefits. Studies show walnut-eaters have a greater likelihood for being more physically active, a better quality diet and improved heart health.

A study published from the Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults Study further bolstered these claims.

The long-term and ongoing study supported by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute of the National Institutes of Health aimed to examine the development of heart disease risk factors over time.

It suggested how a simple handful of walnuts in a person’s diet could act as a bridge to other health-promoting lifestyle habits later in life.

It’s found that five or more servings of walnuts per week may provide the greatest benefit for reducing mortality risk and increasing life expectancy.

The findings also reinforce that walnuts might be an easy and accessible food choice to improve a variety of heart disease risk factors when eaten in young to middle adulthood.

In a recent study published in Nutrition, Metabolism & Cardiovascular Diseases, researchers noted that a possible explanation for the results could be due to the unique combination of nutrients found in walnuts and their effect on health outcomes.

The study by scientists at the University of Minnesota School of Public Health involved information collected from 3,023 men and women aged between 18 and 30 years.

Self-reported diet history was taken at three times throughout the study.

Participants were divided into “walnut consumers,” “other nut consumers” or “no nut consumers”, and assessed for relationships among heart disease risk factors, including dietary intake, smoking, body composition, blood pressure, plasma lipids, triglycerides, fasting blood glucose and insulin concentrations in 352 walnut consumers, 2,494 other nut consumers, and 177 no nut consumers.

Other research found that moderate walnut consumption was associated with a 14% lower risk of death (from any cause), 25% lower risk of dying from cardiovascular diseases, and a gain in about 1.3 years of life expectancy, compared to those who didn’t consume walnuts.

Consuming walnuts two to four times per week could have its benefits too, with the study finding a 13% lower risk of death overall, a 14% lower risk of dying from cardiovascular diseases, and a gain in about one year of life, compared to non-walnut consumers.

One ounce of walnuts is a powerhouse of important nutrients for optimum health, including protein (4g), fibre (2g), a good source of magnesium (45mg) and an excellent source of the essential omega-3 ALA (2.5g).

According to Dr Lyn M. Steffen, professor of epidemiology and community health at the School of Public Health and Lead Researcher on CARDIA: “Walnut-eaters seem to have a unique body phenotype that carries with it other positive impacts on health like better diet quality, especially when they start eating walnuts from young into middle adulthood – as risk of chronic diseases like heart disease, obesity, and diabetes elevates.

“There was a good degree of diversity in terms of the research field locations geographically speaking and the population studied,” added Dr Steffen.

“Following these women and men for 30 years provides an unparalleled window of study into how lifestyle decisions made in free-living environments in young adulthood can affect health in middle-age.”