Consumption of Nuts and Seeds and Telomere Length in 5,582 Men and Women of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES)

J Nutr Health Aging. 2017;21(3):233-240. doi: 10.1007/s12603-017-0876-5.


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.

Design: Cross-sectional.

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.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aging / physiology*
  • Biomarkers / blood
  • Cellular Senescence / physiology*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Diet*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Leukocytes
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nutrition Policy
  • Nutrition Surveys / methods*
  • Nuts*
  • Real-Time Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Seeds*
  • Telomere / physiology
  • Telomere Shortening / physiology*


  • Biomarkers