"The groundwork of all happiness is health." - Leigh Hunt

Walnuts can contribute to maturity, pondering and a spotlight in teenagers

April 26, 2023 – Walnuts appear to be a tasty and nutritious technique to increase alertness and Intelligence and psychological maturity amongst teenagers, in keeping with a brand new study.

The researchers examined 771 healthy adolescents who attended 12 Spanish high schools. The adolescents were between 11 and 16 years old, with a mean age of 14.

The students were told to follow healthy eating recommendations and were randomly divided into two groups: 386 received 30 grams of raw California walnuts—about 14 walnut halves—along with their weight-reduction plan, while 385 received no nuts and served as a control group.

They were tested before the study began and however after 6 months when the study ended. The evaluation included tests of attention, working memory and speed of thought and judgment, in addition to behavioral strengths and weaknesses. Some questionnaires, particularly those on attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder, were accomplished by teachers.

Teens who ate walnuts for at the least 100 days were higher at pondering and reasoning and showed fewer symptoms of ADHD – they paid more attention at school and were less hyperactive. However, there have been no significant differences between the groups in other cognitive areas reminiscent of working memory.

Lead creator Jordi Julvez, PhD, group leader on the Institute of Health Research Pere Virgili and associate researcher on the Barcelona Institute for Global Health, said health care providers should advise teenagers to “eat a handful of walnuts three times a week for the rest of their lives; they could have a healthier brain with better cognitive function.”

Rich source of healthy fatty acids

Puberty is a key phase in brain development by which the connections between neurons and sophisticated behaviors are “refined,” the authors write.

Previous research suggests that polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) play a key role in the right development of the central nervous system by shaping its architecture and performance during neuronal development.

Three of those acids play an “essential role in development.” Two of them – the omega-3 fatty acids docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) – are polyunsaturated fatty acids that may only be obtained through food, mainly from seafood.

But seafood is just not the one source of omega-3 fatty acids. They can even come from plants. Walnuts are “among the richest sources” of plant-based omega-3 fatty acids.

Food is medicine

Uma Naidoo, MD, Director of Nutrition and Lifestyle Psychiatry at Massachusetts General Hospital in Bostonsaid COVID has “left a huge mental health problem among young people: the suicide rate among young people has increased and is very worrying.”

For this reason, Naidoo, knowledgeable chef, dietary biologist and creator of the book How your brain reacts to foodis “excited that high-quality research is being conducted on this vulnerable population, offering more solutions that are easier to implement, such as in terms of nutrition.”

She can also be excited that this sort of research “promotes functional nutrition for mental health” as she believes that “food is medicine.”

The findings are “consistent” with Naidoo’s own approach to dietary psychiatry and are also consistent along with her clinical practice.

Although these results are “promising,” further research in additional diverse populations is required “to make sure these results are truly generalizable,” says Naidoo, a school member at Harvard Medical School who was not involved within the study.

She “envisions a future where research has advanced to the point where we can 'dose' these healthy whole foods for specific psychiatric symptoms and conditions.”