The Nut That is Good for Your Brain and Gut

Walnuts interact with the brain to help appetite control.  While it has long been suspected that walnuts reduce overeating due to their nutrient-packed makeup, a new study administered by Harvard professor Christos Mantzoros at a Boston medical center recently proved that consuming walnuts indeed activates a part of the brain linked to hunger and cravings. Participants were in a lab environment for ten days, which increased validity because experimenters knew exactly what each participant was eating when. During five days of consuming a walnut smoothie each day and five days of consuming a placebo smoothie that tasted the same, participants consistently reported feeling fuller when having consumed walnuts. The fMRI test in which participants were shown desirable foods, neutral objects, and less desirable foods backed this up. As Mantzoros says, “We know there’s no ambiguity in terms of study results. When participants eat walnuts, this part of their brain lights up, and we know that’s connected with what they are telling us about feeling less hungry or more full.”

Omega 3’s in walnuts improve brain health. A lot of evidence has come about recently that suggests brain health is closely connected with nutrition, and a study on 100 adults, aged 65 to 75 years old, supports this. Essentially, by monitoring the brain’s fluid intelligence, omega-3 presence, and gray matter volume, the 2017 study determined a definite relationship between omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid and fluid intelligence. Improvements in overall brain health were discovered in the individuals with high omega-3 levels in their blood, which serves as further evidence linking walnuts to health. Chia seeds, fish, and flax seeds are also rich in omega-3s and can serve as additional excellent sources of a valuable good fat.

Walnuts improve gut health by acting as a prebiotic. The high levels of omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants in walnuts may provide health benefits such as better heart health, brain health, and reduced cancer risk. An animal study approved by the Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center set out to identify the exact microbial changes caused by walnuts in the gut. Two groups of rats were assigned different diets: walnuts, or a replacement of their average meals while maintaining similar calorie intakes. The study showed improvements in gut health in the walnut group due to increasing levels of Lactobacillus. It also demonstrated that walnuts produce significant health benefits by acting as a prebiotic (a food that helps probiotics flourish in your body) and increasing the diversity of the gut’s good bacteria.

Research studies and information provided by Kristin Kirkpatrick, Nutritionist and Good Fat Health Ambassador with the California Walnut Commission