Older adults tend to require fewer energy content and higher levels of nutrients to promote and maintain optimal health. Regrettably, dietary variety and quality are known to decline with advancing age. We conducted a 2-year prospective, randomised, dietary intervention trial where we asked free-living elderly subjects (63-79 years) on self-selected habitual diets to incorporate walnuts daily into their diet (15 % energy). We then compared their nutrient intake with that of a similar group of concurrent participants on self-selected habitual diets but abstaining from walnut consumption (control). No recipes or advice on use of nuts were provided. Dietary intake was assessed by multiple unannounced 24-h telephone dietary recalls. On average, walnut supplement consumption was 43 g/d or 1171·5 kJ (281 kcal). The mean daily energy intake was 954 kJ (228 kcal) higher in the walnut group than in the control group (P<0·001). Compared with control, participants in the walnut group reported significantly higher intake of total protein, vegetable protein, total PUFA and n-3 and n-6 PUFA; and significantly lower intake of total carbohydrate, animal protein, SFA, and Na. An estimated 19 % of total energy and 25 % of total fat from other food sources was displaced. Displacement of MUFA and total PUFA was 21 and 16 %, respectively. Thus adding a daily supplement of walnuts to an ad libitum diet of older adults can induce favourable modifications to the nutrient profile in a way that addresses declining nutrient intake associated with aging.
Keywords: ALA α-linolenic acid; Diet quality; Nutrient displacement; Nuts; Walnuts.