What Kind of Nuts Are Good for the Brain?

SF Gate
by Tracey Roizman, D.C., Demand Media
February 11, 2013

Nuts provide appetite-satisfying flavor and crunch to your healthy diet. Though high in fat, nuts contain mostly healthy, unsaturated fats, some of which are in short supply in the average American diet. Harvard Medical School promotes eating nuts for their cardiovascular benefits. Nuts may also contribute to brain health.
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Adding walnuts to your diet may help reverse some forms of age-related brain deterioration, according to a study published in the August 2012 issue of the "Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry." In the laboratory animal study, diets containing 6 percent walnuts significantly reduced degenerative protein deposits in the brain and promoted the brain's natural waste removal processes. Existing protein deposits were removed by the walnut-supplemented diets, with greatest effects noted in an area of the brain responsible for cognitive function and memory retention. Researchers also noted that walnuts boosted the brain's normal antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activities.
Almonds improved memory and lowered cholesterol levels in an animal study published in the June 2010 issue of the "Indian Journal of Pharmacology." Doses of 150 milligrams per kilogram body weight of almonds for 14 days improved learning and memory and reversed a form of drug-induced amnesia. Almonds also caused a decrease in levels of an enzyme that breaks down acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter that increases attention and awareness. Low levels of acetylcholine can lead to protein plaque formation and dementia. Researchers concluded that almonds may offer benefits for restoring memory and cognitive function in Alzheimer's patients.
Pistachio nut oils may help preserve levels of essential fatty acids and prevent inflammation in the brain, according to a study published in the January 2012 issue of the journal "Lipids in Health and Disease." In the laboratory animal study, pistachio oil prevented frontal lobe decreases in levels of docosahexanoic acid, or DHA, caused by low oxygen levels similar to those that occur when arteries that carry blood to the brain become occluded. The oils also inhibited activity of the inflammatory enzyme cycooxygenase-2, or COX-2. These preliminary results indicate that pistachio nuts may help prevent damaging effects of some forms of brain injury.
Macadamia nuts, high in oleic acid, the same heart-healthy fat found in olive oil, may preserve brain health by keeping your blood pressure low and preventing stroke, according to a study published in the August 2011 issue of the journal "Neurology." A fatty acid known as palmitoleic acid, also found in high quantities in macadamia nuts, is an important component of myelin, the fatty layer that insulates and protects nerve cells in the brain. As such, macadamia nuts may contribute to healthy early brain development and normal brain function.

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Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry: Walnut Diet Reduces Accumulation of Polyubiquitinated Proteins and Inflammation in the Brain of Aged Rats
Indian Journal of Pharmacology: Efficacy Study of Prunus Amygdalus (Almond) Nuts in Scopolamine-Induced Amnesia in Rats
Lipids in Health and Disease: Effect of Acute Administration of Pistacia Lentiscus L. Essential Oil on Rat Cerebral Cortex Following Transient Bilateral Common Carotid Artery Occlusion
International Journal of Food Science and Nutrition: Fatty Acid Profile, Tocopherol, Squalene and Phytosterol Content of Walnuts, Almonds, Peanuts, Hazelnuts and the Macadamia Nut
Neurology: Olive Oil Consumption, Plasma Oleic Acid, and Stroke Incidence: The Three-City Study
Neurochemical Research: Conserved Fatty Acid Composition of Proteolipid Protein During Brain Development and in Myelin Subfractions
About the Author

Tracey Roizman has been a writer and speaker on natural and preventive health care since 1995. She holds a B.S. in nutritional biochemistry and a doctor of chiropractic degree, and is a postgraduate diplomate in chiropractic functional neurology.

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