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Sunrise Senior Living Blog

Sunrise Senior Living Blog

A 'Nutty' Answer to Alzheimer's?

Can walnuts help fight Alzheimer's? According to the Alzheimer's Society, there are approximately 35.6 million people in the world living with dementia. This number is expected to double every 20 years, eventually rising to 115.4 million by the year 2050. The ability to delay the development of the disease by five years would cut the number of deaths caused by dementia in half, saving 30,000 people every year.

A new study led by Abha Chauhan, Ph.D., head of the Developmental Neuroscience Laboratory at the New York State Institute for Basic Research in Developmental Disabilities, found that a diet including the frequent consumption of walnuts may help delay the onset of Alzheimer's disease. The team of researchers compared a group of mice that consumed walnuts with one that didn't, finding that there were improvements in memory, learning skills and motor development, as well as reduced anxiety in the mice that ate walnuts.

Why walnuts?

The study, published in the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease, closely examined how a dietary supplement of walnuts affects mice, feeding them with the equivalent of approximately 30g to 40g of walnuts in humans per day. The researchers also used the data from a previous cell culture study, which found that walnut extract can protect the brain from oxidative damage often caused by the amyloid beta protein. These proteins are a large component of amyloid plaques, which cause the degeneration of the brain during the onset of Alzheimer's.  

Walnuts contain a high level of antioxidants that may have been responsible for preventing the deterioration of the mouse brain that commonly occurs in the development of Alzheimer's disease. Another frequent factor associated with the disease is oxidative stress and inflammation, which walnuts also play a hand in preventing.

"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," said Dr. Chauhan. "Our study adds to the growing body of research that demonstrates the protective effects of walnuts on cognitive functioning."

Although there are several other nuts, such as pecans, almonds and pistachios, that are believed to help an ageing brain, walnuts are rare in that it's the only nut that contains a strong source of alpha-linolenic acid. ALA is an omega-3 fatty acid that's known to enhance the health of both the heart and the brain. This researchers also believe that walnuts may have been responsible for improving behavioural symptoms in some of the mice during the study.

At Sunrise Senior Living, we provide residential care homes for patients in need of dementia care. To find out more about how we can help, contact us today.

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