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Walnuts may boost Memory and Improve Cognitive Function

March 1, 2012
Do you recall what you ate for breakfast today or dinner last night? According to new research, you may have a better chance remembering if you had included walnuts. Recent findings published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease report walnut consumption in a Mediterranean diet is associated with better memory scores and cognitive function. The results suggest that antioxidants present in walnuts and other Mediterranean dietary pattern may help counteract age-related cognitive decline and reduce the incidence of neurodegenerative diseases, including Alzheimer's disease.

Do you recall what you ate for breakfast today or dinner last night? According to new research, you may have a better chance of remembering if you include walnuts. Recent findings published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease report walnut consumption in a Mediterranean diet is associated with better memory scores and cognitive function. The results suggest that antioxidants present in walnuts and other Mediterranean dietary patterns may help counteract age-related cognitive decline and reduce the incidence of neurodegenerative diseases, including Alzheimer’s disease.

This cross-sectional study evaluated whether antioxidant-rich foods from the Mediterranean diet were associated with better cognitive performance in a subsample (447) of elderly participants (aged 55-80 years) from the landmark Spanish PREDIMED [1] study – a dietary intervention trial in asymptomatic individuals with high cardiovascular risk. The researchers evaluated the intake of various foods and performed neuropsychological tests to assess cognitive function in relation to diet, and analyzed the urinary excretion of polyphenols as a biomarker of daily intake of antioxidants.

The study reported regular consumption of walnuts, but not of other nuts, was associated with better working memory. The investigators believe that the high polyphenol (antioxidant) content found in walnuts may be one of the key elements in helping to preserve cognition and fight age-related cognitive decline.  Coffee, virgin olive oil and wine were also associated with better cognitive scores. 

Study investigator and author Dr. Emilio Ros, Hospital Clinic of Barcelona, affirms the “future study of the nearly 7,500 participants of the PREDIMED trial will provide firmer evidence regarding the potential of the Mediterranean diet and its components (among them walnuts) to reduce the incidence of neurodegenerative diseases, including Alzheimer’s.” An estimated 5.1 million Americans suffer from Alzheimer’s disease [2], and although there is no known cure, research continues to uncover the role dietary patterns can play in the development and progression of the illness.

Walnuts are a nutrient-dense whole food that not only provide antioxidants, but also alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), the plant-based omega-3 fatty acid. These nutrients offer anti-inflammatory properties and protect brain cells from oxidative damage.  Previously reported research by Dr. Abha Chauhan: Head, Developmental Neuroscience Lab, NYS Institute for Basic Research in Developmental Disabilities, showed walnuts to have protective effects against oxidative stress and cell death caused by beta amyloidal protein (Aß), the main component of amyloid deposits and senile plaques in the brains of individuals with Alzheimer’s disease.

According to Dr. Chauhan, “Collectively, the findings of our previous studies and the current study by Dr. Ros’ group suggest that a diet with walnuts may reduce the risk of dementia in the elderly population. This may be attributed to a unique combination of anti-amyloidogenic, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of walnuts.”

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California Walnut Commission

The California Walnut Commission, established in 1987, is funded by mandatory assessments of the growers. The Commission is an agency of the State of California that works in concurrence with the Secretary of the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA). The CWC is mainly involved in health research and export market development activities.

Non-Discrimination Statement

The California Walnut Board (CWB) and California Walnut Commission (CWC) prohibit discrimination in all programs and activities on the basis of race, color, national origin, age, disability, sex, marital status, familial status, parental status, religion, sexual orientation, genetic information, political beliefs, reprisal, or because all or part of an individual’s income is derived from any public assistance programs. Persons with disabilities who require alternative means for communication of program information (Braille, large print, audiotape, etc.) should contact the CWB / CWC offices at (916) 922-5888. To file a complaint of discrimination, write to USDA, Director, Office of Civil Rights, 1400 Independence Avenue, S.W., Washington, D.C. 20250-9410, or call (800) 795-3272 (voice) or (202) 720-6382 (TDD). CWB/CWC is an equal opportunity employer and provider. The California Walnut Board and Commission offices are located at 101 Parkshore Dr., Ste. #250, Folsom, CA 95630.

Rhiannon Salter
Torme Lauricella (415) 956-1791
Cell: (415) 505-6971; rsalter@torme.com

Kaley Todd, MS, RD
Torme Lauricella (415) 956-1791
Cell: (847) 732-5878; kaley@torme.com