Teenagers should eat walnuts if they want their brain to stay healthy into old age and avoid anxiety, a study claims.
Full of omega-3 fatty acids, these vital compounds were found to be beneficial for the developing brain in the latest trial.
But those who don’t get enough of the nutrient are at increased risk of memory loss in adulthood, scientists suggest.
Omega-3 fatty acids, which are necessary for human health, can also be found in high quantities in oily fish, soy beans and spinach.
Walnuts are full of omega-3 fatty acids. These vital compounds were found to be beneficial for the developing brain in the latest trial on mice
The new French findings bolster the large body of official evidence that encourages teenagers to consume a healthy diet.
An important time in development
The structure and function of the brain change most during adolescence, meaning it is important for youngsters to maintain a healthy diet.
But this is the time in many of their lives that they begin to get independence and start to make their own food choices.
As a result, many skimp on nutritious options for more affordable foods – but these often lack omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids.
These, known in the medical community as n-3 PUFAs, can’t be produced by the human body and must be obtained through food.
How was the study carried out?
Scientists at the French National Institute of Health and Medical Research centre fed mice a balanced diet until early adolescence for the study.
Rodents, often used in medical studies, closely resemble humans in the form of their genetic make-up.
NUTS TO CUT CANCER RISK
A handful of nuts a day can slash your risk of heart disease and cancer, Imperial College London researchers said in December after reviewing 20 studies.
Eating just 20 grams of nuts every day could reduce the chances of dying early by more than a fifth, the British scientists discovered.
Nuts, particularly walnuts, sunflower seeds and pecans, are high in antioxidants, thought to protect the body against cell damage.
Peanuts – technically a legume – are so healthy that a review suggests even peanut butter could help us live longer, although the sugar and salt it contains may cancel out some benefits.
At this point some of the rodents were switched onto a separate diet which lacked levels of n-3 PUFA.
Mice fed this poor diet during adolescence had reduced levels of the nutrient in their prefrontal cortex and the nucleus accumbens.
The former region is important in regulating emotions, while the latter is primarily involved in addiction.
The low-quality diet weakened connections between neurons in these regions, impairing brain development.
Health benefits of walnuts
Rob Hobson, registered London-based nutritionist and spokesperson for Healthspan, told MailOnline of the benefits of walnuts.
He said: ‘Walnuts contain omega-3 which is important for brain health. They are also a really rich source of selenium which is just as important for brain health.’
The new findings were published in The Journal of Neuroscience.
It comes after Danish researchers found omega-3 fatty acids in walnuts could prevent life-threatening food poisoning.
The University of Southern Denmark study published last month found that the compound switches off genes for the listeria bacteria.
While eating foods rich in omega-3 can reduce harm caused by air pollution by up to half, a Harvard Medical School study found in March.