A new Australian study has found eating nuts may increase cognitive performance in healthy older adults (1).

It found cognitive scores were higher in people with a moderate intake of nuts, equivalent to 15-30g nuts daily, compared with those who didn’t eat nuts.

The journal BMC Geriatrics has just published this research, conducted by a team at Deakin University.

About the research:

The study involved 1,814 people 60 years or older, from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys (NHANES) 2011-2012 and 2013-2014 cohorts.

Researchers monitored their nut intake and diet quality with two 24-hour diet recalls. They then split participants into four groups, based on their nut intake: non-consumers (0 g/day), low intake (0.1-15 g/day), moderate intake (15.1-30.0 g/day) or met recommendation (>30 g/day).

Cognitive function was also tested, through measures such as immediate and delayed recall, verbal fluency, and processing speed and attention.

Key findings:

  • Older adults who ate 15-30g nuts had the highest cognitive scores, whereas those who didn’t eat nuts at all had the lowest scores.
  • In this study, eating more than 30g/day did not lead to higher cognitive performance, compared to the moderate intake group. An exception was delayed recall, where a significantly higher score was seen with intake greater than 30 g/day.
  • A higher nut intake was linked with a higher nutrient intake and better diet quality.

Deakin University video summary of the findings:

A review by the University of Wollongong found just 2% of Australians ate the recommended 30g of nuts a day and 60% of Australians did not report eating any nuts at all.

Another recent review, also involving Deakin University researchers, looked at the effects of nuts on age-related diseases. It found that nut consumption, especially when part of a healthy diet or over a prolonged period, was linked with positive outcomes. These included longer telomere length, reduced risk of sarcopenia and better cognition.

The bottom line:

The findings confirm the benefits of a daily handful (30g) of nuts, as a simple dietary strategy to improve cognitive performance in older adults. This new research builds on the many well-recognised benefits of daily nut consumption.

Note: The INC International Nut and Dried Fruit Council funded the study, recently published in BMC Geriatrics.


  1. Tan SY., el al. Associations between nut intake, cognitive function and non‐alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) in older adults in the United States: NHANES 2011-14. 2021; 21:313.,
  2. Nikodijevic CJ., et al. Nut consumption in a representative survey of Australians: A secondary analysis of the 2011–2012 National Nutrition and Physical Activity Survey. Public Health Nutr, 2020; 23(18).
  3. Tan, SY., et al. Nuts and older adults’ health: A narrative review. Int J Environ Res Public Health, 2021; 18:1848.

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