Nuts, and particularly walnuts, are perhaps one of the most effective "superfoods" in increasing a person's longevity and overall health, a new study found.

Published in BioMed Central's open access journal BMC Medicine, the report suggests that those who eat nuts more than three times a week have a reduced risk of dying from cancer or cardiovascular disease than those who do not.

Jordi Salas-Salvadó from the Universitat Rovira i Virgili led the Spain-based trial that looked at the effect on the primary prevention of cardiovascular disease of over 7,000 older individuals between 55 and 90 years old randomized to a Mediterranean diet supplemented with either extra virgin olive oil or nuts. These groups were then compared to a control group engaged in a low fat diet.

In the end, those in the nut-eating group experienced a variety of health benefits, including a lower body mass index and smaller waist. They were less likely to smoke and were more physically active than those who rarely or never ate nuts. Furthermore, their diets tended to be healthier in that they were characterized by more vegetables, fruit and fish.

Nor did it stop there.

There were fewer people with type 2 diabetes or people taking medicine for hypertension in the group of people who ate the most nuts as well.

Overall, nut eaters had a 39 percent lower mortality risk - a number that increased to 45 percent in the case of walnut eaters.

"Quite how nuts are able prevent premature mortality is not entirely clear, nor why walnut should be better for you than other nuts," Salas-Salvadó said in a statement. "Walnuts have particularly high content of alpha-linoleic acid and phytochemicals, especially in their 'skin' both of which, along with fiber and minerals such as calcium, magnesium and potassium, may contribute to their healthy effect."