Walnuts the New Brain Food for Stress

Summary: Walnut consumption has been associated with self-reported improvements in mental health and stress. It was also linked to improved sleep quality and metabolic biomarkers. Walnuts contain omega-3 fatty acids, melatonin, and other vitamins and nutrients associated with mental and gut health.

Source: University of South Australia

Stressed out college students may want to add walnuts to their daily diet in the weeks leading up to the next exam.

A recent clinical study involving undergraduate students during their university education showed that walnut consumption had positive effects on self-reported measures of mental health and biomarkers of general health.

University of South Australia research published in the journal nutrientsHe also suggests that walnuts may counteract the effects of academic stress on the gut microbiota, especially during times of stress in women.

Principal investigators, Ph.D. student Mauritz Herselman and Associate Professor Larisa Bobrovskaya say the results add to the growing evidence linking walnuts with improved brain and gut health.

“Students experience academic stress throughout their studies, which has a negative impact on their mental health, and are particularly vulnerable during exam periods,” says Herselman.

Eighty undergraduate students allocated to the treatment and control groups were evaluated clinically at three intervals: at the beginning of the 13-week university term, during the examination period, and two weeks after the examination period. Those in the treatment group were given walnuts to consume daily for 16 weeks in these three intervals.

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“We found that those who consumed about half a cup of walnuts each day showed improvements in self-reported indicators of mental health. Walnut consumers also showed improved metabolic biomarkers and overall sleep quality over the long term.

Students in the control group reported increased levels of stress and depression en route to exams, but those in the treatment group did not. Walnut consumers also reported a significant decrease in depression-related emotions between the first and last visits compared to controls.

Previous research has shown that walnuts are packed with omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants, as well as melatonin (the sleep-inducing hormone), polyphenols, folate and vitamin E, all of which support a healthy brain and gut.

It shows a walnut in its shell
Principal investigators, Ph.D. student Mauritz Herselman and Associate Professor Larisa Bobrovskaya say the results add to the growing evidence linking walnuts with improved brain and gut health. Image is in the public domain

“The World Health Organization has recently stated that at least 75 percent of mental health disorders affect people under the age of 24, making undergraduates particularly vulnerable to mental health problems,” says Herselman.

Assoc. Dr. Larisa Bobrovskaya says that mental health disorders are common among university students and can negatively affect their academic performance and long-term physical health.

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“We have shown that consuming walnuts during stressful periods can improve the mental health and general well-being of university students, and can be a healthy and delicious snack to combat some of the negative effects of academic stress, and a versatile ingredient in many recipes,” said Assoc. Says Bobrovskaya.

“Because of the smaller number of men in the study, more research is needed to determine the gender-related effects of walnuts and academic stress in college students. It is also possible that a placebo effect was at play, as this was not a blinded study.”

About this diet and stress research news

Author: press office
Source: University of South Australia
To contact: Press Office – University of South Australia
Picture: the image is in the public domain

see also

This shows the new brain map.

Original research: Open Access.
Mauritz F. Herselman et al. nutrients


The Effects of Walnuts and Academic Stress on Mental Health, General Well-Being and Gut Microbiota in a Sample of University Students: A Randomized Clinical Study

Worse mental health is common among undergraduate students due to academic stress. There is an interaction between stress and diet, and stress affects food choices. Nutritional interventions can be effective in preventing mental health decline due to complex bidirectional interactions between the brain, gut and gut microbiota.

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Previous studies have shown that walnut consumption has a positive effect on mental health. Here, we aimed to investigate the effects of academic stress and daily walnut consumption on mental health, biochemical markers of general health, and gut microbiota in college students using a randomized clinical trial (Australian New Zealand Clinical Trials Registry, #ACTRN12619000972123).

We found that daily walnut consumption improved mental health indicators and protected against some of the negative effects of academic stress on metabolic and stress biomarkers, while academic stress had a negative impact on self-reported mood and mental health status.

Academic stress was associated with lower gut microbial diversity in women improved by walnut consumption. The effect of academic stress or walnut consumption in male participants could not be determined due to the small number of participants.

Therefore, walnut consumption may have a protective effect against some of the negative effects of academic stress, but the gender-related mechanisms require further study.


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