Nut intake has been associated with reduced inflammatory status and lower risk of CVD and mortality. The aim of this study was to examine the relationship between nut consumption and mortality and the role of inflammation. We conducted a population-based prospective investigation on 19 386 subjects enrolled in the Moli-sani study. Food intake was recorded by the Italian version of the European Project Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition FFQ. C-reactive protein, leucocyte and platelet counts and the neutrophil:lymphocyte ratio were used as biomarkers of low-grade inflammation. Hazard ratios (HR) were calculated using multivariable Cox proportional hazard models. During a median follow-up of 4·3 years, 334 all-cause deaths occurred. As compared with subjects who never ate nuts, rare intake (≤2 times/month) was inversely associated with mortality (multivariable HR=0·68; 95 % CI 0·54, 0·87). At intake ≥8 times/month, a greater protection was observed (HR=0·53; 0·32, 0·90). Nut intake (v. no intake) conveyed a higher protection to individuals poorly adhering to the Mediterranean diet (MD). A significant reduction in cancer deaths (HR=0·64; 95 % CI 0·44, 0·94) was also observed, whereas the impact on CVD deaths was limited to an inverse, but not significant, trend. Biomarkers of low-grade inflammation were reduced in nut consumers but did not account for the association with mortality. In conclusion, nut intake was associated with reduced cancer and total mortality. The protection was stronger in individuals with lower adherence to MD, whereas it was similar in high-risk groups (diabetics, obese, smokers or those with the metabolic syndrome), as compared with low-risk subjects. Inflammation did not explain the observed relationship.