Regularly eating walnuts may improve attention span and fluid intelligence, and reduce symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in teens. The corresponding study was published in The Lancet.
Walnuts are rich in alpha-linolenic fatty acid (ALA), which is a type of omega-3 fatty acid that plays a crucial role in brain function and development. In the current study, researchers sought to see how the fat- consumed from walnuts- affects adolescent neurodevelopment.
To do so, they recruited 771 secondary school students aged 11 to 16 years old from 12 different high schools in Barcelona, Spain. The adolescents were randomized into two groups: one receiving no intervention and one receiving 30g packets of walnuts to consume daily over six months.
In the end, the researchers found that adolescents who ate walnuts for at least 100 days during the six-month study period experienced improvements in sustained attention and fluid intelligence. They further found that walnut consumption improved symptoms of ADHD including inattention, hyperactivity and impulsivity. They noted, however, that eating walnuts did not improve neuropsychological function in healthy adolescents.
“Adolescence is a period of great brain development and complex behaviors that requires a significant amount of energy and nutrients, “ Ariadna Pinar- Marti, first author of the article and researcher at the Institut d'Investigació Sanitària Pere Virgili (IISPV) in Spain, said in a press release.
“If boys and girls would heed these recommendations and actually eat a handful of walnuts a day, or at least three times a week, they would notice many substantial improvements in cognitive abilities, and it would help them face the challenges of adolescence and entering adulthood,” she noted.
The researchers noted that adolescents who most closely adhered to the guidelines of walnut consumption experienced the most positive results. They hope their findings will provide a foundation for further clinical and epidemiological study on the effects of walnuts and ALA on adolescent neurodevelopment.