FACTCHECK: Does eating two teaspoons of nuts really boost your brain function by 60%?

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Sandra-Ilona Sunram-Lea, Lancaster University

Dementia is a cruel disease that robs people of their memory, their judgement and their identity. Unfortunately, there is no cure, and in the past few years a number of clinical trials for new dementia drugs have failed – the latest being Biogen’s drug aducanumab. Without any effective treatments on the horizon, most people’s best hope is to avoid getting dementia in the first place.

One of the hallmarks of dementia is cognitive decline. There are several lifestyle changes that may slow cognitive decline, such as doing mentally stimulating activities (crossword puzzles, learning a new language), getting plenty of exercise and maintaining a healthy diet – especially one low in saturated fats, refined carbohydrates and sugar.

Of these, diet is a favourite among health reporters, perhaps because the message can be delivered clearly and succinctly. The latest such story comes from the Daily Mirror which claims that eating just two teaspoons of nuts a day “boosts brain function by 60%”. If the claim is true, we should all be rushing out to buy a bag of nuts, but is this what the study actually says?

The article is based on an observational study published in the Journal of Nutrition Health and Aging. After assessing the diets of nearly 5,000 adults in China (aged 55 and older) over a period of nine years, the researchers found an inverse relationship between the amount of nuts people ate and the degree of cognitive decline they experienced. Those who consumed more than 10g of nuts and seeds a day were less likely to show a fall in their cognitive function compared with those who consumed less than 10g a day.

Out of the 4,822 participants in the study, 67% had their cognitive ability tested twice (only 16% were tested more than twice over the course of the study). Where more than one cognitive measurement was made, cognitive performance decreased over time, but people who ate more than 10g of nuts per day decreased the likelihood of this decline. Consequently, the results suggest that consuming two teaspoons of nuts per day may preserve cognitive performance and may lead to better cognitive ageing over a lifetime. The results do not show that eating nuts improves cognitive function, as the Mirror headline claimed.

A certain amount of cognitive decline is inevitable with age.
Andrea Danti/Shutterstock

Limitations

Participants in the study inevitably varied on a number of factors, including education, general health, nutritional intake and lifestyle factors, such as exercise. Although the way the data was analysed took those factors into account and still found an association, cognitive decline and dementia are strongly influenced by many environmental and genetic factors, and it is unlikely that consumption of one particular food is sufficient to ward off dementia.

Another weakness of this study is the fact that participants reported their nut consumption via a questionnaire. Evidence shows that self-reported food consumption should always be interpreted with caution.

Although randomised controlled trials indicate that eating nuts has an effect on blood flow (including to the brain), there isn’t enough evidence to draw conclusions about their impact on cognitive function.

What we can say at this point is that the evidence on nuts and cognitive decline is promising, but it isn’t strong enough to make nutritional recommendations. Simply consuming two teaspoons of nuts per day is unlikely to reduce your risk of dementia.


More on evidence-based articles about diets:

Sandra-Ilona Sunram-Lea, Senior Lecturer in Psychology, Lancaster University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Plant compound found in spices and herbs in your kitchen can increase brain connections

Researchers from The D’Or Institute for Research and Education discovered that a compound found in your everyday parsley, thyme, chamomile and red pepper can increase brain connections.

Read more about the article by clicking the link below. 

Brazilian researchers from D’Or Institute for Research and Education, Federal University of Rio de Janeiro and Federal University of Bahia have demonstrated in laboratory that apigenin, a substance found in parsley, thyme, chamomile and red pepper, improves neuron formation and strengthens the connections between brain cells.

Source: Plant compound found in spices and herbs increases brain connections | EurekAlert! Science News

Quick, easy and healthy asian meals: Part 1

Quickandeasymeals

For most of us caring for our parents or a loved one at home, putting together a home cooked meal can feel like a tough feat. After a busy day at work, it’s so much easier for us to just pick up a takeaway meal at the food centre or just grab some fast food for the whole family.

For care staff that may have residents or clients who are caring for older Asian living in residential or community aged care facilities, fellow nurses have shared that sometimes, trying to figure out a healthy, delicious and easy Asian meal may be challenging. Most of the time, it is easier to just dish up what’s available, or get meals on wheels, and for clients, it may be a lamb roast, fish and chips, casserole, not something that residents or clients may be familiar with. It’s not difficult to understand why residents/clients may start losing weight or their appetite.

Finding good quality Asian food can be tough and studies have indicated that eating out may not be the best for our health. Food prepared commercially usually contains a high amount of saturated fat, carbohydrates and sodium. For many older adults, this may not be ideal, taking into consideration the multiple co-morbidities that they already have. For caregivers, after a long day at work, a high fat, high carbohydrate and high sodium meal, though tasty, may not be ideal for the body in the long term. This may also make us feel sluggish and tired, instead of rejuvenated after a good nutritious meal. Below are some quick and easy Asian recipes that are clean and healthy.

recipes

1. Bak Chor Mee Soup Recipe 肉脞面 (Chinese Mince Meat Noodle Soup)

Serves:

Click here: http://www.noobcook.com/bak-chor-mee-soup/2/

2. Congee 粥(Rice porridge)

Serves: 1 

Click here: http://www.mijorecipes.com/chinese-congee-jook-chicken/

3. Chicken Noodle 鸡丝面

Serves: 2

Click here: http://rasamalaysia.com/chicken-noodles-recipe/2

Potstickers 鍋貼

Serves: 6

Click here: http://damndelicious.net/2014/03/01/potstickers/

4. Baked Honey Garlic Chicken 甜甜鸡

Serves: 4

Click here: http://damndelicious.net/2014/03/01/potstickers/

5. Hot and Sour Soup 酸辣汤

Serves: 4

Click here: http://www.closetcooking.com/2015/02/quick-and-easy-chinese-hot-and-sour-soup.html

6. Chinese Chives with Tofu 炒韭菜豆腐

Serves: 4

Click here: http://www.bubblews.com/posts/sauteed-chinese-chive-with-tofu

7. Bok Choy and Shiitake Mushroom Noodles 面条加香菇白菜

Serves: 2

Click here: http://divinehealthyfood.com/bok-choy-shiitake-mushroom-noodles/#comment-145

8. Stir-Fried Pea Shoots 炒豆苗

Serves: 4

Click here: http://www.bonappetit.com/recipes/article/how-to-cook-pea-shoots

9. Shrimp with Snow Peas 豌豆虾仁

Serves: 4

Click here: http://rasamalaysia.com/shrimp-with-snow-peas-recipe/?pid=616#image-337

10. Salt and Pepper Tofu 椒盐豆腐

Serves: 4

Click here: http://www.veggiebelly.com/2010/07/restaurant-style-chinese-salt-pepper-tofu.html

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