Consuming walnuts regularly may have a positive impact on sustained attention and intelligence scores of adolescents, a study claims.
Walnuts have a significant amount of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), an omega-3 fatty acid essential for the body and which plays a key role in brain development, especially in the early stage, the researchers said. The study, published in the journal eClinicalMedicine, demonstrates that a healthy, balanced diet that provides essential nutrients, such as those found in walnuts, can have a beneficial effect on the cognitive and psychological development of adolescents.
“Adolescence is a period of brain refinement, connectivity, and complex behaviours, so it remains sensitive to a number of environmental and lifestyle factors, including diet, from which it requires a large amount of energy and nutrients for proper development,” said Jordi Julvez, principal investigator and coordinator of the Neuropia Research Group of the Institut d’Investigacio Sanitaria Pere Virgili (IISPV), Spain. “Walnuts are a nutrient-dense food and a rich plant-based source of ALA, an omega-3 fatty acid that provides energy and is essential for the body and its development. For this reason, walnuts are a great ally of adolescent health,” says Julvez.
This study involved 700 volunteers, specifically, high school students between 11 and 16 years of age from 12 different high schools.
The participants were randomly divided into two groups: the control group and the experimental group. The experimental group was given packets containing 30 grams of walnuts (equivalent to a handful) and was instructed to consume them daily for 6 months.
Participants who consumed walnuts for at least 100 days showed improvements in attention functions and those with symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) had better behaviour in class, paying more attention to the teacher and being less hyperactive.
In addition, the study found an increase in functions related to fluid intelligence, which is less influenced by learning and inherent to a person’s biology, the researchers said.
Participants who followed more closely the recommended dose of walnuts and the number of days of consumption showed improvements in neuropsychological functions, they said. The research team plans to conduct a second observational trial to analyse the effects of walnut consumption during pregnancy, with emphasis on the cognitive development and psychological maturation of infants.