New research suggest the simple act of eating a handful of walnuts a day may improve your memory.
Dr. Lenore Arab from the David Geffen School of Medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles, found that eating walnuts may improve performance on cognitive function tests, including those for memory, concentration, and information processing speed.
He found that cognitive function was consistently greater in adult participants who consumed walnuts, regardless of age, gender, or ethnicity.
The finding is important as the aging of the baby boomer generation brings concerns of escalating diagnoses of Alzheimer’s and dementia.
According to a 2012 World Health Organization article, the estimated number of new cases of dementia each year worldwide is nearly 7.7 million, and the number of people living with dementia worldwide is estimated at 35.6 million.
This number is predicted to double by 2030 and more than triple by 2050.
It is important to note that the study format was not a cause and effect investigation. However, the cross-sectional study is the first large representative analysis of walnut intake and cognitive function.
Investigators matched available cognitive data to findings from multiple National Health and Nutrition Examination (NHANES) surveys.
The NHANES surveys draw from a large sampling of the U.S. population, typically ages one to 90 years old. In this study, participants included adults ages 20-59 as well as 60 and over.
Arab and co-researcher Dr. Alfonso Ang found that study participants with higher walnut consumption performed significantly better on a series of six cognitive tests.
Dr. Arab noted, “It is exciting to see the strength of the evidence from this analysis across the U.S. population supporting the previous results of animal studies that have shown the neuroprotective benefit from eating walnuts; and it’s a realistic amount — less than a handful per day (13 grams).”
The study adds to a growing body of research surrounding walnuts’ positive effect on reducing cognitive impairment and overall brain health, which includes the possible beneficial effects of slowing or preventing the progression of Alzheimer’s disease in mouse models.
Experts say that there are numerous possible active ingredients in walnuts that may be contributing factors in protecting cognitive functions.
Walnuts have a high antioxidant content (3.7 mmol/ounce), and they are the only nut that contains a significant source of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) (2.5 grams per ounce), a plant-based omega-3 fatty acid with heart and brain-health benefits.
“It isn’t every day that research results in such simple advice: Eating a handful of walnuts daily as a snack, or as part of a meal, can help improve your cognitive health,” said Arab.