Walnuts can reduce stress, new study shows

Findings of a new study indicate that eating walnuts can reduce stress, and improve mental health and sleep among university students. (Photo credit: Engin Akyurt)

Excerpts from the article:

“According to the American Institute of Stress, 8 in 10 university students experience frequent bouts of stress, and 61% of students seek counseling for anxiety, depression, or other mental health needs. Eating walnuts each day could be one small, simple, and accessible dietary change to promote brain health and overall well-being in university-aged students, a new study reports.

“The study, published in the scientific journal Nutrients by researchers at the University of South Australia, found that eating two ounces of walnuts a day for 16 weeks in undergraduate university students improved self-reported mental health indicators. This dietary change also had a protective effect against some of the negative impacts of academic stress and aided self-reported sleep quality in the longer term.

“Walnuts are known to be a health-promoting food because they provide healthy unsaturated fats and are rich in the omega-3 alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), but the findings of this study indicate that they are a simple food that can also help combat stress. For the randomized clinical trial, co-funded by the University of South Australia and the California Walnut Commission, the participant group who ate walnuts also experienced an increase in metabolic markers that are linked with protection against stress. Additionally, in females only, eating walnuts may have countered the negative effects of academic stress on the diversity of the gut bacteria.

“For the study, 60 university students aged 18 to 35 were randomly selected to be in either a treatment group or control group for 16 weeks. The treatment group was provided with pre-portioned walnuts and asked to consume one portion (approximately 56 grams) per day, and the control group was asked to refrain from consuming any nuts or fatty fish for the same duration. According to the researchers, the group eating walnuts seemed to experience a protective effect against some of the negative impacts of academic stress on mental health compared to the control group. Specifically, daily consumption of walnuts prevented significant changes in mental health-related scores and scores of stress and depression. Daily consumption of walnuts also increased total protein and albumin levels, which could play a role in protecting against the negative effects of academic stress on metabolic biomarkers.” (Nicole Axworthy, vegnews.com)