A diet rich in walnuts may not lead to weight gain or increase the risk of obesity, a study conducted in healthy elders claims.

The study, published in the journal Nutrients, found that healthy elders consuming nearly 300 calories of walnuts daily did not show any negative effects on body weight and composition.

The findings by researchers at Loma Linda University (LLU) in the US also expand the knowledge of how nuts can affect the independently living, predominantly healthy, elderly people.

"There is a widespread fallacy that the fats in nut cause weight gain, and therefore could lead to issues such as obesity, or other weight-related health issues such as heart disease or diabetes," said Edward Bitok, an assistant professor at Loma Linda University.

"The research, however, shows that nuts are a healthful snack," Bitok said.

During the study, healthy elders  -- with mean age of 69 years and 67 per cent women -- were randomly assigned to walnut or control diets.

Subjects in the walnut group received packaged walnuts, about 28–56 grammes per day, to incorporate into their habitual diet, while those in the control group abstained from walnuts.

After two years, no significant differences were noticed between the control and walnut groups regarding body weight or body fat, researchers said.

"Because of their high energy content, many people have believed the misconception that nuts cause unwanted weight gain, and avoid them altogether," said Bitok.

"This study helps us understand more about good fats versus bad fats and disproves the idea that the fats in nuts are unhealthy and cause weight-gain," he said.

The study was a sub-study of the Walnuts and Healthy Aging Study (WAHA), the first large study to test if walnuts play a part in healthy ageing.

The WAHA study tested how daily consumption of walnuts was associated with age-related cognitive decline and macular degeneration in seniors.

Prior studies examining walnut consumption and body weight have focused on younger individuals and for shorter durations, researchers said.

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