Eating a handful of walnuts daily as a snack, or as part of a meal, can help improve your memory, a new study has claimed.  Walnuts may improve performance on cognitive function tests, including those for memory, concentration and information processing speed, according to the research.

Cognitive function was consistently greater in adult participants that consumed walnuts, regardless of age, gender or ethnicity, researchers said. The cross-sectional study is the first large representative analysis of walnut intake and cognitive function.

Dr Lenore Arab and co-researcher Dr Alfonso Ang from the University of California, Los Angeles, found that study participants with higher walnut consumption performed significantly better on a series of six cognitive tests. “It is exciting to see the strength of the evidence from this analysis across the US 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),” Arab noted.

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.

According to a 2012 World Health Organisation 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, researchers said.

There are numerous possible active ingredients in walnuts that may be contributing factors in protecting cognitive functions. This includes the high antioxidant content of walnuts (3.7 mmol/ounce), the combination of numerous vitamins and minerals as well as the fact that they are the only nut that contain 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,” Arab added.

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