Associations between nut intake, cognitive function and non‐alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) in older adults in the United States: NHANES 2011-14

Sze Yen Tan, Ekavi N. Georgousopoulou, Barbara R. Cardoso, Robin M. Daly, Elena S. George

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Citations (Scopus)
29 Downloads (Pure)


Background: Nuts are nutrient-rich and reported to provide some cognitive and cardiometabolic health benefits, but limited studies have focused on older adults. This study investigated the cross-sectional relationship between habitual nut intake, dietary pattern and quality, cognition and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) in older adults. Methods: Older adults (≥ 60 years) from the NHANES 2011-12 and 2013-14 cohorts, who had complete data on cognitive function (as CERAD total, delayed recall, animal fluency and digit-symbol substitution test) and variables to calculate the Fatty Liver Index (FLI), an indicator of NAFLD, were included (n = 1848). Nut intake and diet quality (Healthy Eating Index 2015) were determined using two 24-hour diet recalls. Participants were categorised into one of four groups based on their habitual nut intake: non-consumers (0 g/d), low intake (0.1–15.0 g/d), moderate intake (15.1–30.0 g/d) or met recommendation (> 30 g/d), with all outcomes compared between these nut intake groups. Results: Cognitive scores of older adults were the lowest in non-consumers and significantly highest in the moderate intake group, with no further increase in those who consumed nuts more than 30 g/d (p < 0.007). FLI was the lowest among older adults with moderate nut intake but the associations disappeared after adjusting for covariates (p = 0.329). Moderate nut intake was also associated with better immediate and delayed memory in older adults with high risk of NAFLD (FLI ≥ 60) (B = 1.84 and 1.11, p < 0.05 respectively). Higher nutrient intake and better diet quality (p < 0.001) were seen with higher nut intake but did not influence energy from saturated fat intake. Factor analysis revealed ‘Nuts and oils’ as one of the four major dietary patterns associated with better cognition and lower FLI scores. Conclusions: Moderate nut intake (15.1–30.0 g/d) may be sufficient for better cognitive performance, but not NAFLD risk of older adults in the US.

Original languageEnglish
Article number313
Pages (from-to)1-12
Number of pages12
JournalBMC Geriatrics
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2021
Externally publishedYes


Dive into the research topics of 'Associations between nut intake, cognitive function and non‐alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) in older adults in the United States: NHANES 2011-14'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this