Objectives: Consumption of nuts and seeds is associated favorably with all-cause mortality. Nuts and seeds could reduce disease and prolong life by influencing telomeres. Telomere length is a good indicator of the senescence of cells. The purpose of the present study was to determine the relationship between nuts and seeds intake and leukocyte telomere length, a biomarker of biologic aging.
Setting and participants: A total of 5,582 randomly selected men and women from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), 1999-2002, were studied.
Measurements: DNA was obtained via blood samples. Telomere length was assessed using the quantitative polymerase chain reaction method. A validated, multi-pass, 24-h recall dietary assessment, administered by NHANES, was employed to quantify consumption of nuts and seeds.
Results: Nuts and seeds intake was positively and linearly associated with telomere length. For each 1-percent of total energy derived from nuts and seeds, telomere length was 5 base pairs longer (F=8.6, P=0.0065). Given the age-related rate of telomere shortening was 15.4 base pairs per year (F=581.1, P<0.0001), adults of the same age had more than 1.5 years of reduced cell aging if they consumed 5% of their total energy from nuts and seeds.
Conclusions: Consumption of nuts and seeds accounts for meaningful decreases in biologic aging and cell senescence. The findings reinforce the recommendations of the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which encourage the consumption of nuts and seeds as part of a healthy diet.
Keywords: Cell aging; DNA; NHANES; dietary fat; nuts.