Wellness Wednesday: Eating Walnuts Can Improve Cognitive Function

“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.”   Dr. Lenore Arab.

Adding walnuts to your diet may help boost your memory according to a new Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease report. Researchers found that eating walnuts as part of a Mediterranean diet was associated with better memory and brain function. The antioxidants in walnuts may help counteract age-related cognitive decline and even reduce the risk of neuro-degenerative diseases, including Alzheimer’s.

Diets containing two percent, six percent, or nine percent walnuts, when given to old rats, were found to reverse several parameters of brain aging, as well as age-related motor and cognitive deficits, says James Joseph, PhD, of the U.S. Department of Agriculture Human Nutrition Research Center at Tufts University in Boston. 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. Experts say that there are numerous possible active ingredients in walnuts that may be contributing factors in protecting cognitive functions.

Dr. Lenore Arab from the David Geffen School of Medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles, found that eating walnuts may improve performance on cognitive function tests, including those for memory, concentration, and information processing speed. He found that cognitive function was consistently greater in adult participants who consumed walnuts, regardless of age, gender, or ethnicity. The finding is important as the aging of the baby boomer generation brings concerns of escalating diagnoses of Alzheimer’s and dementia.

The increase in diagnoses can be linked to molecules, known as free radicals, which can harm brain cells and brain function. The present research extends these findings and shows that the antioxidant properties in walnuts wage war against the the free radicals, lessening the damage. Walnuts have a high antioxidant content (3.7 mmol/ounce), and they are the only nut that contains 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. These antioxidants may actually block the signals produced by free radicals that can later produce compounds that would increase inflammation. Findings from the studies by Joseph and his colleague Barbara Shukitt-Hale, PhD, show for the first time that shorter chain fatty acids found in plants, such as walnuts, may have beneficial effects on cognition similar to those from long chain fatty acids derived from animal sources, which have been reported previously.

A six percent diet is equivalent to a person eating 1 ounce of walnuts each day, which is the recommended amount to reduce harmful low-density lipoprotein, or LDL, cholesterol, while a nine percent diet is equivalent to people eating 1.5 ounces of walnuts per day. “Importantly,” Joseph says, “this information, coupled with our previous studies, shows that the addition of walnuts, berries, and grape juice to the diet may increase ‘health span’ in aging and provide a ‘longevity dividend’ or economic benefit for slowing the aging process by reducing the incidence and delaying the onset of debilitating degenerative disease.”

If walnuts don’t do it for you, other nuts can give you some pretty great health benefits, too. Dieters who ate pistachios daily brought down both their BMIs and their triglycerides more than those who ate an identical number of calories from pretzels, according to a recent UCLA study. Hazelnuts contain arginine, an amino acid that may lower blood pressure. An ounce of almonds has as many heart-healthy polyphenols as a cup of green tea and 1/2 cup of steamed broccoli combined, and they also may help lower LDL (“bad”) cholesterol.

Sources: http://www.prevention.com/health/health-concerns/nuts-and-health-how-walnuts-can-improve-your-memory

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/11/071106122843.htm

http://psychcentral.com/news/2015/01/22/walnuts-may-improve-memory/80258.html

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State of Our Health in the US

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How do we measure up with the rest of the world on matters of health?

The Journal of American Medicine (JAMA) published in August 2013 the first ever report comparing the State of Health in the US to that of 34 countries on measures of diseases, injuries and risk factors associated with pre-matured mortality, years lived with disability, and disability adjusted life years.

Although it was not surprising to find in this report that chronic disease epidemics continue to spread across the world, but that US is doing much worse than many other countries with similar economic strength. This can be attributed to an aging population, however, a significant amount of data supports key findings of unhealthy lifestyles, diet and environment exposures that constitute the American way of life today are major influencers.

Among many interesting facts presented in this report are these:

• The diseases and injuries with the largest number of premature mortality in 2010 were ischemic heart disease, lung cancer, stroke, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and road injury.
(ALL of these are largely preventable diseases)

• Age-standardized premature mortality rates increased for Alzheimer disease, drug use disorders, chronic kidney disease, kidney cancer, and falls.
(MANY of these are preventable conditions)

• The diseases with the largest number of years lived with disability in 2010 were low back pain, major depressive disorder, other musculoskeletal disorders, neck pain, and anxiety disorders.
(SOME of these are preventable conditions)

• The leading risk factors relating to disability adjusted life years were dietary risks, tobacco smoking, high body mass index, high blood pressure, high fasting plasma glucose (Type II Diabetes), physical inactivity, and alcohol use.
(MOST of these are preventable risks)

So how can we use this information?

By changing our one-size-fits all method of health care to a more patient specific.

“How much better could we do if each patient received a comprehensive individualized functional medicine work-up and therapeutic intervention instead of a prescription? Performing an in-depth examination of the patient’s underlying dysfunctions, identifying the antecedents, triggers, and mediators of disease (including the contributions of environmental and lifestyle risks), and working to eliminate obstacles to healing within the context of a highly effective therapeutic partnership between patient and clinician is what functional medicine practitioners are known for—and that approach may well be the key to reversing and preventing not only diabetes but many other elements of the chronic disease epidemic as well.”Institute of Functional Medicine

Because of its focus on acute care, our current medical model often fails at confronting both the causes of and solutions for the chronic disease epidemic, and must be replaced with a model of comprehensive care and prevention that is systems-based, integrative, patient-centered, and much more effective.

For more information about Functional Medicine, visit our website: Chambers Chiropractic & Acupuncture.

Sources:
http://www.functionalmedicine.org/home/ReportStateofHealth/

US Burden of Disease Collaborators. The state of US health, 1990-2010. Burden of diseases, injuries, and risk factors. JAMA. 2013;310(6):591-608.