Dietary Walnuts Preserve Aspects of Health Span and Alter the Hippocampal Lipidome in Aged High-Fat Diet-Fed Mice

Ardijana Novaj, Matthew G. Engel, Ruixuan Wang, Kai Mao, Xiaonan Xue, Yam Amir, Gil Atzmon, Derek M. Huffman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Evidence continues to accrue that aging and its diseases can be delayed by pharmacologic and dietary strategies that target the underlying hallmarks of the aging process. However, identifying simple, safe, and effective dietary strategies involving the incorporation of whole foods that may confer some protection against the aging process is also needed. Recent observational studies have suggested that nut consumption can reduce mortality risk in humans. Among these, walnuts are particularly intriguing, given their high content of n-3 fatty acids, fiber, and antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compounds. To this end, 12-month-old male CB6F1 mice were provided either a defined control low-fat diet (LFD), a control high-fat diet (HFD), or an isocaloric HFD containing 7.67% walnuts by weight (HFD + W), and measures of healthspan and related biochemical markers (n = 10–19 per group) as well as survival (n = 20 per group) were monitored. Mice provided the HFD or HFD + W demonstrated marked weight gain, but walnuts lowered baseline glucose (p < 0.05) and tended to temper the effects of HFD on liver weight gain (p < 0.05) and insulin tolerance (p = 0.1). Additional assays suggested a beneficial effect on some indicators of health with walnut supplementation, including preservation of exercise capacity and improved short-term working memory, as determined by Y maze (p = 0.02). However, no effect was observed via any diet on inflammatory markers, antioxidant capacity, or survival (p = 0.2). Ingenuity Pathway Analysis of the hippocampal transcriptome identified two processes predicted to be affected by walnuts and potentially linked to cognitive function, including estrogen signaling and lipid metabolism, with changes in the latter confirmed by lipidomic analysis. In summary, while walnuts did not significantly improve survival on a HFD, they tended to preserve features of healthspan in the context of a metabolic stressor with aging.

Original languageEnglish
Article number2314
JournalInternational Journal of Molecular Sciences
Issue number3
StatePublished - 24 Jan 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 by the authors.


  • aging
  • diet
  • health
  • nuts

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Spectroscopy
  • Catalysis
  • Inorganic Chemistry
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Physical and Theoretical Chemistry
  • Organic Chemistry


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