News

Eating More Walnuts Could Help You Live Longer

Bowl of walnuts.

Verywell / Getty Images

Key Takeaways

  • A large observational study using data that was collected over 20 years showed that eating more walnuts is linked to a reduced risk of early death.
  • The benefits of eating walnuts were even observed in people who followed “suboptimal” diets, though the people who ate an "optimal" diet experienced more benefits.
  • Eating more walnuts can be as easy as having them on hand for a quick snack or adding them to meals as salad or oatmeal toppings.

According to a new study, being a regular walnut eater might lower your risk of heart disease and help you live longer. The results were published in the journal Nutrients.

“In this study, eating at least five servings of walnuts per week was linked to around a year of additional life expectancy, which is impressive considering how simple and economical incorporating walnuts into your diet is,” Melissa Azzaro, RDN, LD, a New Hampshire-based registered dietitian and author of "A Balanced Approach to PCOS," tells Verywell.

The benefits were also seen in people who ate two to four servings of walnuts per week (one serving of walnuts is one ounce—about seven walnuts). However, the positive association was not strong as what was seen among people who ate more servings.

Walnuts May Help You Live Longer

To evaluate the positive effect of eating walnuts, the researchers obtained data from over 67,000 women in the Nurses’ Health Study (1998–2018) and over 26,000 men in the Health Professionals Follow-up Study (1998–2018). All of the participants were free of cancer, heart disease, and stroke at the start of the study.

Caroline Thomason, RD, CDCES

No surprise here that these little morsels are associated with improving our risk for all-cause mortality and a longer lifespan.

— Caroline Thomason, RD, CDCES

During the 20-year follow-up period, the researchers observed that the participants with higher walnut consumption and higher frequency of walnut consumption had a lower risk of dying from any cause (all-cause mortality) as well as a lower risk of dying from cardiovascular disease (CVD mortality) compared to people who did not eat walnuts.

Key Findings

The researchers noted several key findings in their study, including that:

  • For each 0.5 serving increase in walnut consumption per day, participants had a 9% lower risk of early death.
  • People who ate walnuts more than five times per week had around a 25% lower risk of dying from CVD than people who did not eat walnuts.
  • For each 0.5 serving/day increase in walnut consumption, there was a 14% lower risk of dying from CVD.
  • People who ate walnuts gained about one year of life expectancy—a benefit that was not observed in people who did not eat walnuts.

Walnuts and "Suboptimal" Diets

The reduced risk of early death was seen among the walnut eaters regardless of whether they were following an "optimal" diet. In fact, among the people with a “suboptimal” diet, a 0.5 serving per day increase in walnut consumption was linked to a 12% reduced risk of all-cause early death and a 26% reduced risk of early death due to CVD.

“Considering what we know about the Mediterranean diet and heart-healthy fats, these results are not super surprising,” Caroline Thomason, RD, CDCES, a dietitian and diabetes educator, tells Verywell. “Walnuts offer heart-smart omega-3 fats, unsaturated fat, and fiber—three nutrients that can improve everything from joint health to digestion! No surprise here that these little morsels are associated with improving our risk for all-cause mortality and a longer lifespan!"

Limitations

There were several limitations to the research. For one, the study was observational in nature (and correlation does not equal causation) and was supported by the California Walnut Commission.

The researchers also point out that the people in the study who ate more walnuts tended to have an overall healthier lifestyle—which may have played more of a role in their health than their walnut consumption.

Walnuts: A Nutrition Powerhouse

While they might not be a "lifesaver," walnuts can still be a tasty, versatile, and nutritious part of a balanced eating plan. One serving of walnuts also contains four grams of plant-based proteins, two grams of fiber, and micronutrients like copper, magnesium, and calcium.

The nuts are also packed with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and healthy fats. In fact, walnuts are the only nut that is an excellent source of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) omega-3 fatty acids, which support many aspects of your overall health.

A 2014 study published in Advances in Nutrition showed that ALA may help improve heart health and might play a role in primary and secondary prevention of cardiovascular disease, including stroke and heart attack.

Research has shown many positive effects of eating walnuts, especially when consumed as part of an overall nutritious diet. Walnut consumption has also been linked to a reduced risk of developing CVD, obesity, and type 2 diabetes.

A 2016 study featured in the Journal of the American Heart Association evaluated the benefits of a Mediterranean diet that was high in fish supplemented with ALA among older Spanish people with high cardiac disease risk. The results of the study showed that there was a reduced risk of all-cause mortality among the people who received additional ALA.

How To Eat More Walnuts

Eating more walnuts can be as simple as having them on hand at snack time. Azzaro says that you can also “add them to salads, baked goods, and yogurt, or use them in recipes where they are used to coat fish or chicken.”

No matter how you are including walnuts in your diet, know that committing to eating a serving throughout the week may serve you well in an economical and low-effort way. 

What This Means For You

Eating walnuts a few times a week (on their own as a snack or as part of a meal) can have many health benefits. It might even lower your risk of heart disease and help you live longer.

Was this page helpful?
Article Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Liu X, Guasch-Ferré M, Tobias DK et al. Association of Walnut Consumption with Total and Cause-Specific Mortality and Life Expectancy in U.S. AdultsNutrients. 2021. 13, 2699. doi:10.3390/nu13082699

  2. Fleming JA, Kris-Etherton PM. The evidence for α-linolenic acid and cardiovascular disease benefits: Comparisons with eicosapentaenoic acid and docosahexaenoic acid. Adv Nutr. 2014 Nov 14;5(6):863S-76S. doi:10.3945/an.114.005850

  3. Sala-Vila A, Guasch-Ferré M, Hu FB, et al. Dietary α-Linolenic Acid, Marine ω-3 Fatty Acids, and Mortality in a Population With High Fish Consumption: Findings From the PREvención con DIeta MEDiterránea (PREDIMED) Study. J Am Heart Assoc. 2016 Jan 26;5(1):e002543. doi:10.1161/JAHA.115.002543. Erratum in: J Am Heart Assoc. 2016 Feb;5(2). pii:e002077. doi:10.1161/JAHA.116.002077