A new study finds that a diet which includes walnuts may delay the onset, progression and even the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
The animal study, which is published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, found that a walnut-rich diet increased memory, learning skills and even reduced anxiety in mice (Chauhan et al., 2014).
The research was inspired by previous findings about the protective effects of walnuts on cognition.
In the study, mice that had been genetically engineered to develop Alzheimer’s were fed diets supplemented with either 6% or 9% walnuts.
In humans this is equivalent to eating around 1 ounce (6%) or 1.5 ounces (9%) per day (30g and 45g resepectively).
After a year, the mice that were fed walnuts — along with a comparison group that had a walnut-free diet — were given a series of mouse-style cognitive tests.
They had to solve mazes, do tests which involved learning and gaining motor skills.
Both groups of mice fed walnuts showed improvements in learning ability, memory, anxiety and motor development compared to the control group.
The effects of the walnuts may be down to the high antioxidant content of walnuts, which is greater than other types of nuts.
Dr. Abha Chauhan, who led the study, said:
“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.
Our study adds to the growing body of research that demonstrates the protective effects of walnuts on cognitive functioning.”
Currently, one person is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s every 67 seconds in the United States.
By 2050 the number of people over 65 with the disease may have tripled, up to 16 million.
The total cost of the disease to the healthcare system is thought to be $214 billion.