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Can eating nuts help lower frailty risk?

Aug 25, 2023Aug 25, 2023

The results of a large prospective cohort study published in The Journal of Nutrition suggest that long-term consumption of nuts can help preserve health and well-being in older adults. According to Wang (Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health) and colleagues, the association between frequent nut consumption and lower risk of frailty among a cohort of women 60 years of age or older was strong and consistent.

Approximately 7 to 12 percent of Americans 65 years of age and older are considered frail, which is associated with adverse outcomes such as mortality, disability, falls, and poor surgical outcome. Unfortunately, frailty risk increases with advancing age. Emerging evidence suggests that adherence to high-quality dietary patterns such as the Mediterranean diet can lower frailty risk. Nuts, which are a main food component of the Mediterranean diet, contain a wide array of nutrients such as polyunsaturated fatty acids, vitamins, and anti-inflammatory phytochemicals. These nutrients and biologically active components found in nuts are involved in maintaining physiological functions that can help prevent the development of frailty. However, no study has specifically investigated the relationship between nut consumption and frailty risk.

To assess the association between nut intake and risk of frailty, the authors analyzed data from a large population of older women from the Nurses’ Health Study. The Nurses’ Health Study, established in 1976, is an ongoing prospective cohort study of chronic diseases in women. Participants completed a baseline questionnaire that collected information including lifestyle factors and medical history. Every 2 years, participants received a follow-up questionnaire to collect updated information on diseases and health related variables, including weight, new disease diagnoses, and health status. Frailty was assessed using a well-validated questionnaire, which included 5 components – fatigue, lower strength, reduced aerobic capacity, multiple chronic conditions, and significant weight loss during the previous year. A food frequency questionnaire, which was administered at 4-year intervals, was used to assess the frequency of consuming peanuts, peanut butter, walnuts, and other nuts.

Study results show that higher nut consumption was strongly associated with a lower risk of frailty among older women, after adjusting for health and lifestyle factors. Specifically, individuals who consumed 5 or more servings of nuts per week had approximately a 20% lower risk of developing frailty as compared with those who consumed less than 1 serving per month. In addition, there was a linear trend, such that each increasing quantity of nuts consumed was related to an incremental reduction in frailty risk. An inverse associating with frailty risk was also found for peanuts and walnuts, but not for peanut butter. Thus, study findings suggest that nuts should be further tested as a convenient public health intervention for preventing frailty in older adults.


Wang R, Hannan MT, Want M, Schwartz AW, Lopez-Garcia E, Grodstein F. Long-Term Consumption of Nuts (Including Peanuts, Peanut Butter, Walnuts, and Other Nuts) in Relation to Risk of Frailty in Older Women: Evidence from a Cohort Study. The Journal of Nutrition, Volume 153, Issue 3, March 2023, Pages 820-827,

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Dr. Kathy Beerman teaches in the School of Biological Sciences at Washington State University. The author of several published articles, she is interested in research that focuses on the efficacy of a novel approach to treating iron deficiency anemia in rural regions of Guatemala and Ecuador. Dr. Beerman teaches an undergraduate nutrition course for health majors, as well as a course that prepares students to participate in a 10-day medical mission to Guatemala. Since joining the faculty at Washington State University in 1990, she has been the recipient of several teaching awards (the Burlington Northern Faculty Meritorious Achievement in Teaching Award, the R.M. Wade Foundation Award for Excellence in Teaching, and the Sahlin Faculty Excellence Award for Instruction). More recently, she received the CAS Outstanding Achievement Award in International Activities (2017) and the President’s Award for Leadership (2018). Other scholarly activities include co-author of two introductory nutrition textbooks (Nutritional Sciences: From Fundamentals to Food and NUTR).