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Nut Consumption Improves Cognitive Function and Modulates Gut Bacteria, New Study Suggests

A wooden bowl filled with all sorts of tree nuts, including pecans, almonds, pistachios, macadamias, and cashews.
Nov. 10, 2022—A recent INC-funded study published in the Journal of Nutrition showed that after four weeks of consumption of nuts in a healthy non-elderly sample, there are positive effects on cognitive function as well as modulation of microbial taxa associated with gut health. 

The goal of this clinical study was to examine the effects of daily consumption of tree nuts on cognitive function, mood, metabolomics, and gut microbial species in healthy adults aged between 18 and 49. Researchers from Northumbria University in the United Kingdom conducted a randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind, counterbalanced crossover study and examined the outcomes of daily tree nut consumption following a 4-week intervention.

The study’s participants were split into two groups. The first group was supplemented with 30 grams per day of mixed tree nuts (15 g walnuts, 7.5 g almonds, 7.5 g hazelnuts) for four weeks before switching to a placebo intervention for four weeks; the other received the placebo before switching to nut consumption. In order to examine the effects of tree nut consumption, metabolic responses were monitored, as well as gut bacterial community structure and the potential for these to impact cognition.

Results demonstrated that nut consumption significantly improved accuracy and speed of response on a picture recognition task. And while the study did not yield any significant changes to bacterial community alpha or beta diversity, there was a Lachnospiraceae amplicon sequence variant (ASV) that was found to be enriched in those who consumed the mixed tree nuts daily. 

Lead researcher Prof. Crystal Haskell-Ramsay commented, “This study provides exciting evidence for improvements to cognition following only four weeks’ consumption of tree nuts. Since the study participants were healthy, non-elderly adults, it’s possible that more profound effects may be shown in those at increased risk for cognitive decline or in those with poor gut health.” 

The study was supported by the INC International Nut and Dried Fruit Council.

Learn more about pecans health benefits in Pieces of Pecan.
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International Nut & Dried Fruit Council

The INC is the international umbrella organization for the nut and dried fruit industry. Its members include more than 850 nut and dried fruit sector companies from over 80 countries. INC  membership represents over 85% of the world’s commercial “farm gate” value of trade in nuts and dried fruits. The INC’s mission is to stimulate and facilitate sustainable growth in the global nut and dried fruit industry. It is the leading international organization on health, nutrition, statistics,  food safety, and international standards and regulations regarding nuts and dried fruits.