"Given walnuts are a high-energy food, a prevailing concern has been that their long term consumption might be associated with weight gain," said Emilio Ros from Hospital Clinic of Barcelona in Spain.

"They also show that the well-known cholesterol-lowering effect of walnut diets works equally well in the elderly and is maintained in the long term," he added.

Researchers instructed 707 healthy older adults to add daily doses of walnuts (around 15 per cent of caloric intake) to their typical diet or to consume their usual diet without nuts.

Participants were not given advice on total calorie and macronutrient intake or food substitution for walnuts. After one year, the study found that both diets had minimal effect on body weight, triglycerides, and high-density lipoprotein (HDL, or 'good') cholesterol.

However, the walnut-diet resulted in significant low-density lipoprotein (LDL, or 'bad') cholesterol reductions compared to the control, nut-free diet.

"As we continue the WAHA study, we will assess how walnut consumption may affect, among other outcomes, cognitive decline and age-related macular degeneration, conditions that were major public health concerns," said Ros.

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