A recent study revealed the potential of a walnut-enriched diet to benefit brain-health. The animal study was published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease and details how a diet including walnuts may have positive effects against Alzheimer’s disease by reducing the risk of contracting the disease, delaying the onset, and slowing the progression.
The research was led by Abha Chauhan, PhD, head of the Developmental Neuroscience Laboratory at the New York State Institute for Basic Research in Developmental Disabilities (IBR) and the outcomes are that mice fed with a walnut-enriched diet had substantial improvement in memory, learning skills, motor development, and reduced anxiety.
The high antioxidant portion existent in walnuts (3.7 mmol/ounce) may act as a brain protective factor against the degeneration common in Alzheimer’s disease. Both oxidative stress and inflammation are prominent features in Alzheimer’s disease.
“These findings are very promising and help lay the groundwork for future human studies on walnuts and Alzheimer’s disease — a disease for which there is no known cure,” said Dr. Abha Chauhan, PhD, lead researcher. “Our study adds to the growing body of research that demonstrates the protective effects of walnuts on cognitive functioning.”
Dr. Chauhan and her research group examined the effects of a walnut diet supplementation of 6 or 9 percent for mice — the equivalent to 1 and 1.5 ounces per day of walnuts in humans. This study follows a former cell culture study, also led by Dr. Chauhan, that emphasized the protective effects of walnuts against the oxidative damage caused by amyloid-beta protein. The amyloid-beta protein is the major component of amyloid plaques that exist in the brains of those who have Alzheimer’s disease.
Alzheimer’s affects more than 5 million Americans. One person every 67 seconds develops Alzheimer’s in the United States, and as the baby boom generation ages, the number of Americans with Alzheimer’s and other dementias is expected to escalate very quickly. By 2050, there will be three times more people 65 and older with the disease, which underscores the importance of finding ways to effectively prevent, slow, and stop the disease. The estimated payments in 2014 for all the individuals suffering with Alzheimer’s disease and other similar dementias is about $214 billion dollars.
Walnuts contain a variety of vitamins and minerals, and they are the only nut that contains significant levels of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) (2.5 grams per ounce). ALA is an omega-3 fatty acid with heart and brain heath benefits that most likely impacted the improvement of the behavioral symptoms in Dr. Chauhan’s study.