Consuming walnuts may lower the prevalence and frequency of depression, and improve concentration levels, according to a study carried out in American adults. Researchers from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) in the US found that depression scores were 26 per cent lower for walnut consumers and eight per cent lower for consumers of other nuts, compared to those who did not eat nuts at all.
The study, published in the journal Nutrients, found that walnut consumption was more closely associated with higher energy levels and better concentration, compared to other nuts. “According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one out of every six adults will have depression at some time in their life. It is important to find low-cost interventions, such as dietary changes, that are easy to implement and may help reduce the incidence of depression,” said lead investigator Lenore Arab, from UCLA.
“Walnuts have previously been investigated for their role in cardiovascular and cognitive health, and now we see an association with depression symptoms—providing another reason to include them in a healthy eating plan,” Arab said. Researchers examined data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, which draws from a large sampling of the US population. More than 26,000 American adults were asked about their dietary intake over the course of one to two days as well as depression symptoms over the past two weeks.
Using a widely accepted questionnaire, participants ranked how often they experienced factors such as little interest in doing things, trouble sleeping or sleeping too much, feeling tired or having little energy, and trouble concentrating on things. According to the findings, walnut consumers were more likely to have greater interest in activities, higher energy levels, less hopelessness, better concentration, and greater optimism.
Depression scores were significantly lower among those who consumed nuts, particularly walnuts, compared to those who did not consume nuts, even after controlling for age, sex, race, income, body mass index (BMI), smoking, alcohol consumption, and marital status.
On average, walnut consumers ate about 24 grammes of walnuts per day, equivalent to one-quarter cup serving.
While the association between nut consumption and depression scores was consistent for men and women, the effect appeared to be strongest among women, who are more likely to report greater depressive symptoms and use of antidepressants, compared to men.
When compared to other tree nuts, walnuts have a unique fatty acid profile — they contain mostly polyunsaturated fats, including a significant amount of the plant-based omega-3 alpha-linolenic acid (2.5g/28 grammes),which is more than any other nut, researchers said.