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A Nutty Way to Improve Brain Health

Posted by Ashleigh Wilson on

How does the water of the brain turn into the wine of consciousness?

This is a question posed by Australian philosopher and cognitive scientist, David Chalmers. While modern science understands little of how consciousness is created, what we do know is that what we put in our bodies can significantly impact how we think and feel. While this could affect how well we may do in that upcoming exam or handle the pressures of life, it also alters just about everything that makes us human, including our memories, experiences and thoughts. 

What was I saying again? 

Oh, that’s right. 

When our brain health isn’t optimal, we may be more forgetful. We may also experience more negative thought patterns, depression and anxiety. 

Not ideal, huh?

The good news is that with the right food, we can help our brains function optimally. This isn’t to say all our problems will simply disappear, but it could make them easier to deal with. Plus, our diet can also help prevent age-related cognitive decline and conditions such as dementia. 

This Walnut Disappoint 

It really should come as no surprise that many of the plants we eat for food contain molecules that alter the way our bodies function, including our brains. Even in today’s world, which largely overlooks traditional treatments, 11% of the medicines considered basic and essential by the World Health Organisation (WHO) come from flowering plants.

There is so much for us to cover on this topic, more than what we can fit in this article, but let’s take a common ingredient that is easy to add to a lot of foods: Walnuts. 

The appearance of walnuts as tiny brains is rather fitting when you consider the abundance of nutrients in them which promote good brain health. For starters, walnuts have high levels of vegan protein. Protein is the second largest matter in the brain, so for optimum function and alertness, keeping up your protein levels is a must. Walnuts tick this box.

Walnuts also contain many powerful micronutrients associated with healthy brain function such as tocopherols (a type of vitamin E), manganese and B vitamins.

There are many studies around the benefits of these micronutrients, but long story short, there is evidence that they can slow age-related cognitive decline, slow neurodegenerative diseases and lower LDL (a type of cholesterol associated with cardiac events that can cause serious hypoxic brain damage). 

That’s pretty nuts.  Pun intended - sorry, not sorry. 

Of course, walnuts are the most transformational when they’ve been activated. This is a process with ancient roots, believed to have come from Aztecs and Aborigines. Along with being easier to digest and safer for those with allergies, activated nuts have higher levels of nutrients. So to supercharge your walnuts and brain power, activation is the way to go.

Get Nutty for Yourself AND Those Around You

Eating walnuts isn’t a nutty thing to do for society either. Looking after our brain health can make a massive impact on the community.

In Australia alone there are approximately 459,000 cases of dementia and an estimated 1.6 million people involved in their care and support. Dementia is among the most expensive health conditions to treat, making it difficult to underestimate how much societal and individual benefit could come from increased brain health! 

The Australian Bureau of Statistics reported in 2017-2018 that 13.1% of Australians have an anxiety disorder and 10.4% had feelings of depression, both increasing significantly since the last survey. Many of us will have experienced these disorders first hand, or have been close to someone who has, and will know the detrimental impacts they can have on different aspects of life. 

While we may not be able to answer the question of how the water of the brain turns into the wine of consciousness, we do know we can improve some of the pillars of consciousness. 

Research suggests making changes to our diets (and sticking with them!) will result in improved cognition and mood. These are changes that your body, your friends and family, and society at large, will thank you for making!

You’d be nuts not to do it.


P.S. 

We’ve added premium activated walnuts to our nut mixes; however, if these are out of your price range, you can also get standard walnuts from your local supermarket. 

You also don’t need to add walnuts to every meal, just a couple of nuts a day can make a difference. You could add them to your smoothie, musli or stir-fry. These are a few ideas, the potentials are limitless really.  Why not get those creative juices flowing by experimenting and enjoy some nutty creations? 



References & Further Reading 


Brain Health: 

  1. Vecchio, L. M., Meng, Y., Xhima, K., Lipsman, N., Hamani, C., & Aubert, I. (2018). The Neuroprotective Effects of Exercise: Maintaining a Healthy Brain Throughout Aging. Brain plasticity (Amsterdam, Netherlands), 4(1), 17–52. https://doi.org/10.3233/BPL-180069

  2. Mattson M. P. (2012). Energy intake and exercise as determinants of brain health and vulnerability to injury and disease. Cell metabolism, 16(6), 706–722. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cmet.2012.08.012

  3. Lippi, G., Mattiuzzi, C., & Sanchis-Gomar, F. (2020). Updated overview on interplay between physical exercise, neurotrophins, and cognitive function in humans. Journal of sport and health science, 9(1), 74–81. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jshs.2019.07.012

  4. Larrieu, T., & Layé, S. (2018). Food for Mood: Relevance of Nutritional Omega-3 Fatty Acids for Depression and Anxiety. Frontiers in physiology, 9, 1047. https://doi.org/10.3389/fphys.2018.01047

  5. Spencer, S. J., Korosi, A., Layé, S., Shukitt-Hale, B., & Barrientos, R. M. (2017). Food for thought: how nutrition impacts cognition and emotion. NPJ science of food, 1, 7. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41538-017-0008-y

  6. CDC (2011). Promoting Brain Health: Be a Champion! Make a Difference Today! US Department of Health and Human Services, Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, Georgia

  7. Gómez-Pinilla F. (2008). Brain foods: the effects of nutrients on brain function. Nature reviews. Neuroscience, 9(7), 568–578. https://doi.org/10.1038/nrn2421

  8. Kulkarni, A., & Wilson, D. M., 3rd (2008). The involvement of DNA-damage and -repair defects in neurological dysfunction. American journal of human genetics, 82(3), 539–566. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ajhg.2008.01.009

  9. Casas, A. I., Geuss, E., Kleikers, P., Mencl, S., Herrmann, A. M., Buendia, I., Egea, J., Meuth, S. G., Lopez, M. G., Kleinschnitz, C., & Schmidt, H. (2017). NOX4-dependent neuronal autotoxicity and BBB breakdown explain the superior sensitivity of the brain to ischemic damage. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 114(46), 12315–12320. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1705034114

  10. Cobley, J. N., Fiorello, M. L., & Bailey, D. M. (2018). 13 reasons why the brain is susceptible to oxidative stress. Redox biology, 15, 490–503. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.redox.2018.01.008

  11. Jaishankar, M., Tseten, T., Anbalagan, N., Mathew, B. B., & Beeregowda, K. N. (2014). Toxicity, mechanism and health effects of some heavy metals. Interdisciplinary toxicology, 7(2), 60–72. https://doi.org/10.2478/intox-2014-0009

  12. Rosano, C., Marsland, A. L., & Gianaros, P. J. (2012). Maintaining brain health by monitoring inflammatory processes: a mechanism to promote successful aging. Aging and disease, 3(1), 16–33.

  13. Stakos, D. A., Stamatelopoulos, K., Bampatsias, D., Sachse, M., Zormpas, E., Vlachogiannis, N. I., Tual-Chalot, S., & Stellos, K. (2020). The Alzheimer's Disease Amyloid-Beta Hypothesis in Cardiovascular Aging and Disease: JACC Focus Seminar. Journal of the American College of Cardiology, 75(8), 952–967. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jacc.2019.12.033

  14. Ramanoël, S., Hoyau, E., Kauffmann, L., Renard, F., Pichat, C., Boudiaf, N., Krainik, A., Jaillard, A., & Baciu, M. (2018). Gray Matter Volume and Cognitive Performance During Normal Aging. A Voxel-Based Morphometry Study. Frontiers in aging neuroscience, 10, 235. https://doi.org/10.3389/fnagi.2018.00235

  15. Tan, F. C., Hutchison, E. R., Eitan, E., & Mattson, M. P. (2014). Are there roles for brain cell senescence in aging and neurodegenerative disorders?. Biogerontology, 15(6), 643–660. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10522-014-9532-1

  16. Wang, A. S., & Dreesen, O. (2018). Biomarkers of Cellular Senescence and Skin Aging. Frontiers in genetics, 9, 247. https://doi.org/10.3389/fgene.2018.00247

  17. Akbarian, S., Beeri, M. S., & Haroutunian, V. (2013). Epigenetic determinants of healthy and diseased brain aging and cognition. JAMA neurology, 70(6), 711–718. https://doi.org/10.1001/jamaneurol.2013.1459

  18. Ain, Q., Schmeer, C., Penndorf, D., Fischer, M., Bondeva, T., Förster, M., Haenold, R., Witte, O. W., & Kretz, A. (2018). Cell cycle-dependent and -independent telomere shortening accompanies murine brain aging. Aging, 10(11), 3397–3420. https://doi.org/10.18632/aging.101655

  19. Gorelick, P. B., Furie, K. L., Iadecola, C., Smith, E. E., Waddy, S. P., Lloyd-Jones, D. M., Bae, H. J., Bauman, M. A., Dichgans, M., Duncan, P. W., Girgus, M., Howard, V. J., Lazar, R. M., Seshadri, S., Testai, F. D., van Gaal, S., Yaffe, K., Wasiak, H., Zerna, C., & American Heart Association/American Stroke Association (2017). Defining Optimal Brain Health in Adults: A Presidential Advisory From the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association. Stroke, 48(10), e284–e303. https://doi.org/10.1161/STR.0000000000000148

  20. Kim D. (2016). Correlation between physical function, cognitive function, and health-related quality of life in elderly persons. Journal of physical therapy science, 28(6), 1844–1848. https://doi.org/10.1589/jpts.28.1844

  21. Dementia Australia (2018) Dementia Prevalence Data 2018-2058. Commissioned research undertaken by NATSEM, University of Canberra, Canberra

  22. Australian Bureau of Statistics (2018). National Health Survey: First Results, 2017-18. ABS Catalogue no. 4364.0.55.001, Australian Bureau of Statistics, Canberra

  23. Pew Research Center, (2013) Living to 120 and Beyond: American’s Views on Aging, Medical Advances and Radical Life Extension, Pew Research Center, Washington, DC

  24. Veeresham C. (2012). Natural products derived from plants as a source of drugs. Journal of advanced pharmaceutical technology & research, 3(4), 200–201. https://doi.org/10.4103/2231-4040.104709

Walnuts:

  1. Popa-Wagner, A., Mitran, S., Sivanesan, S., Chang, E., & Buga, A. M. (2013). ROS and brain diseases: the good, the bad, and the ugly. Oxidative medicine and cellular longevity, 2013, 963520. https://doi.org/10.1155/2013/963520

  2. Jahanban-Esfahlan, A., Ostadrahimi, A., Tabibiazar, M., & Amarowicz, R. (2019). A Comparative Review on the Extraction, Antioxidant Content and Antioxidant Potential of Different Parts of Walnut (Juglans regia L.) Fruit and Tree. Molecules (Basel, Switzerland), 24(11), 2133. https://doi.org/10.3390/molecules24112133

  3. Li, F. J., Shen, L., & Ji, H. F. (2012). Dietary intakes of vitamin E, vitamin C, and β-carotene and risk of Alzheimer's disease: a meta-analysis. Journal of Alzheimer's disease : JAD, 31(2), 253–258. https://doi.org/10.3233/JAD-2012-120349

  4. Petrović-Oggiano, G., Debeljak-Martačić, J., Ranković, S., Pokimica, B., Mirić, A., Glibetić, M., & Popović, T. (2020). The Effect of Walnut Consumption on n-3 Fatty Acid Profile of Healthy People Living in a Non-Mediterranean West Balkan Country, a Small Scale Randomized Study. Nutrients, 12(1), 192. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu12010192

  5. Poulose, S. M., Miller, M. G., & Shukitt-Hale, B. (2014). Role of walnuts in maintaining brain health with age. The Journal of nutrition, 144(4 Suppl), 561S–566S. https://doi.org/10.3945/jn.113.184838

  6. Del Gobbo, L. C., Falk, M. C., Feldman, R., Lewis, K., & Mozaffarian, D. (2015). Effects of tree nuts on blood lipids, apolipoproteins, and blood pressure: systematic review, meta-analysis, and dose-response of 61 controlled intervention trials. The American journal of clinical nutrition, 102(6), 1347–1356. https://doi.org/10.3945/ajcn.115.110965

  7. Figueira, I., Menezes, R., Macedo, D., Costa, I., & Dos Santos, C. N. (2017). Polyphenols Beyond Barriers: A Glimpse into the Brain. Current neuropharmacology, 15(4), 562–594. https://doi.org/10.2174/1570159X14666161026151545

  8. O'Neil, C. E., Fulgoni, V. L., 3rd, & Nicklas, T. A. (2015). Tree Nut consumption is associated with better adiposity measures and cardiovascular and metabolic syndrome health risk factors in U.S. Adults: NHANES 2005-2010. Nutrition journal, 14, 64. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12937-015-0052-x

  9. Pandareesh, M. D., Chauhan, V., & Chauhan, A. (2018). Walnut Supplementation in the Diet Reduces Oxidative Damage and Improves Antioxidant Status in Transgenic Mouse Model of Alzheimer's Disease. Journal of Alzheimer's disease : JAD, 64(4), 1295–1305. https://doi.org/10.3233/JAD-180361

  10. Amaral, J. S., Casal, S., Pereira, J. A., Seabra, R. M., & Oliveira, B. P. (2003). Determination of sterol and fatty acid compositions, oxidative stability, and nutritional value of six walnut (Juglans regia L.) cultivars grown in Portugal. Journal of agricultural and food chemistry, 51(26), 7698–7702. https://doi.org/10.1021/jf030451d

  11. Reynolds E. H. (2002). Folic acid, ageing, depression, and dementia. BMJ (Clinical research ed.), 324(7352), 1512–1515. https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.324.7352.1512

  12. Naghashpour, M., Amani, R., Sarkaki, A., Ghadiri, A., Samarbafzadeh, A., Jafarirad, S., & Malehi, A. S. (2016). Brain-derived neurotrophic and immunologic factors: beneficial effects of riboflavin on motor disability in murine model of multiple sclerosis. Iranian journal of basic medical sciences, 19(4), 439–448.

  13. Wang, W., & Liang, B. (2012). Case report of mental disorder induced by niacin deficiency. Shanghai archives of psychiatry, 24(6), 352–354. https://doi.org/10.3969/j.issn.1002-0829.2012.06.008

  14. Gasperi, V., Sibilano, M., Savini, I., & Catani, M. V. (2019). Niacin in the Central Nervous System: An Update of Biological Aspects and Clinical Applications. International journal of molecular sciences, 20(4), 974. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijms20040974

  15. Kennedy D. O. (2016). B Vitamins and the Brain: Mechanisms, Dose and Efficacy--A Review. Nutrients, 8(2), 68. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu8020068

  16. Wiley KD, Gupta M. Vitamin B1 Thiamine Deficiency (Beriberi) [Updated 2020 Jun 22]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2020 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK537204/

  17. Jannusch, K., Jockwitz, C., Bidmon, H. J., Moebus, S., Amunts, K., & Caspers, S. (2017). A Complex Interplay of Vitamin B1 and B6 Metabolism with Cognition, Brain Structure, and Functional Connectivity in Older Adults. Frontiers in neuroscience, 11, 596. https://doi.org/10.3389/fnins.2017.00596

  18. Pandey, K. B., & Rizvi, S. I. (2009). Plant polyphenols as dietary antioxidants in human health and disease. Oxidative medicine and cellular longevity, 2(5), 270–278. https://doi.org/10.4161/oxim.2.5.9498

  19. Marx, W., Kelly, J. T., Marshall, S., Cutajar, J., Annois, B., Pipingas, A., Tierney, A., & Itsiopoulos, C. (2018). Effect of resveratrol supplementation on cognitive performance and mood in adults: a systematic literature review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Nutrition reviews, 76(6), 432–443. https://doi.org/10.1093/nutrit/nuy010

  20. Vinson, J. A., & Cai, Y. (2012). Nuts, especially walnuts, have both antioxidant quantity and efficacy and exhibit significant potential health benefits. Food & function, 3(2), 134–140. https://doi.org/10.1039/c2fo10152a

  21. Sánchez-González, C., Ciudad, C. J., Noé, V., & Izquierdo-Pulido, M. (2017). Health benefits of walnut polyphenols: An exploration beyond their lipid profile. Critical reviews in food science and nutrition, 57(16), 3373–3383. https://doi.org/10.1080/10408398.2015.1126218

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