Study links nut consumption to improved cognitive function

Website Link (Article by Nikki Hancocks)

Higher habitual nut consumption is positively associated with cognitive function, especially among old adults, according to an observational study of 1,000 Qatari adults.

Globally, cognitive impairments including Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, have become a major concern. The total number of people with dementia has increased from 20.2 million in 1990 to 43.8 million in 2016​ and dementia was the fifth leading cause of death accounting for 2.4 million deaths worldwide in 2016​. 

Diet can affect brain function through different mechanisms including the regulation of neurotransmitter pathways, synaptic transmission, membrane fluidity and signal transduction pathways. Many nutrients, such as omega-3 fatty acids, flavonoids, vitamin E, have been examined for their role in cognitive function.

Nuts are good sources of polyunsaturated fatty acids, phytosterols, polyphenols, and magnesium. Nut consumption has been shown to be beneficial for the prevention of many chronic diseases including diabetes and hypertension​ – both of which are risk factors for cognitive impairment.

Previous population observational studies suggest a beneficial effect of nuts on cognition​. On the other hand, a few studies have shown no association between cognitive function and nuts intake​. 

The aims of the current study were to:

  1. to assess the association between nuts consumption and cognitive function among the Qatari population;
  2. to test whether magnesium, hypertension, and diabetes mediate this association between nut consumption and cognitive function.

The study

Qatar Biobank Study (QBB) is an ongoing cohort study​ started in 2012 with over 15,000 participants. In the current analysis, 1000 Qatari adults aged 20 years and above were randomly selected by the QBB management team. Using a self-administered questionnaire, socio-demographic information, lifestyle factors, and dietary habits were collected. In addition, medical and family history information were obtained by a nurse interview and a health examination was conducted. Cognitive function was assessed by a computer-based test to measure the mean reaction time (MRT) and a 102 item food frequency questionnaire (FFQ) was used to assess dietary habits. 


A total of 21.1% of the participants reported consuming nuts ≥4–6 times/week (high consumption) while 40.2% reported consuming ≤1 time/month (low consumption). Overall, an inverse association was found between nuts consumption and MRT and the association between nuts and MRT was mainly seen among those aged over 50 years.

The association between nuts consumption and MRT was not mediated by hypertension, diabetes, or serum magnesium.

The authors therefore conclude that habitual higher consumption of nuts is positively associated with cognitive function, especially among old adults.

The report concludes: “Nuts consumption is beneficial for cognitive function as measured by MRT, especially among those with old age, diabetes, and hypertension. Further prospective studies and randomized clinical trials are needed to assess the amount and type of nuts consumption on cognitive function.”

The authors note the study has some limitations.

  • First, MRT is the only indicator used for measuring cognitive function.
  • Second, the sample is relatively small and most of the participants were young so results cannot be extrapolated over the general population.
  • Third, the food frequency questionnaire used included only the frequency of the nuts consumption without specifying the amount or type of the consumed nuts. Thus, we could not estimate the actual amount (grams/day) of nuts intake.
  • In addition, recall bias is considered another limitation in this study. 

“Higher Habitual Nuts Consumption Is Associated with Better Cognitive Function among Qatari Adults” (Nafea et. al. 2021)​

Published by RenSun Lee

Kia ora! Sustainability is at the core of my soul ever since I was a kid. I always strive to finish the food on my plate and live as a minimalist. I love to cut down on waste in order to live sustainably and harmoniously with our planet. This brings me to my passion as a Food Scientist to integrate new technologies into innovative and creative solutions to meet customer demands and market trends and to optimize products and processes for quality, savings and sustainability. To these goals, I have published a Journal on my work on sustainable packaging and patented a new Antimicrobial wash. Nothing is more satisfying than working hard and smart at the workplace and playing hard outside of working hours. I enjoy rejuvenating myself through spending quality time with my two adorable kids and my awesome soul mate and getting close to nature when possible, be it gardening, tramping or going to the beach. I also love to learn about our magnificent universe and how sustainability is working in the grand scheme of things. I strongly believe that Work, Life & Balance is the key to a healthy state of mind, both physically and mentally. I look forward to making a positive difference wherever and whenever I can. Through this Blog, I hope to catalog recent Food Trends and Food Technologies that I come across so that anyone who is interested can have access to it (articles and resources). Please use these resources at your discretion. On top of that, I would also like to share related news and technologies of the future that would help mankind advance towards a Type 1 Civilization. Please feel free to contact me if you would like to share and contribute to the “Resources“. I would like to thank you in advance for dropping by. I sincerely hope that you can benefit from the recent Food Trends and Food Technologies I catalogued. Kind regards | Ngā mihi RenSun Lee

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