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Eating a handful of walnuts a day can increase attention and intelligence in teenagers

Regular consumption of walnuts can have a positive impact on the sustained attention and intelligence scores of adolescents. Walnuts have significant amounts of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), an omega-3 fatty acid essential for the body and which plays a key role in brain development, especially early on, researchers said.

A study published in the journal eClinicalMedicine shows that a healthy, balanced diet that provides essential nutrients, such as those found in walnuts, can have a beneficial effect on the cognitive and psychological development of adolescents.

“Adolescence is a period of refinement of the brain, connectivity and complex behavior, so it remains sensitive to a number of environmental and lifestyle factors, including diet, which requires large amounts of energy and nutrients for proper development,” said Jordi Julvez, principal investigator and coordinator of the research group Neuro Èpia Institut d’Investigacio Sanitaria Pere Virgili (IISPV), Spain.

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Benefits of walnuts

“Walnuts are a nutrient-dense food and a rich plant source of ALA, an omega-3 fatty acid that provides energy and is essential for the body and its development. For this reason, walnuts are a great ally for adolescent health,” says Julvez.

This study involved 700 volunteers, specifically high school students aged 11 to 16 from 12 different high schools.

The participants were randomly divided into two groups: a control group and an experimental group. The experimental group received packets containing 30 grams of walnuts (the equivalent of a handful) and were instructed to consume them daily for 6 months.

Participants who consumed walnuts for at least 100 days showed improvements in attentional functions, and those with symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) had better classroom behavior, paid more attention to the teacher, and were less hyperactive.

In addition, the study found an increase in functions related to fluid intelligence, which is less affected by learning and is inherent in human biology, the researchers said.

Participants who more closely followed the recommended dose of walnuts and the number of days of consumption showed improvements in neuropsychological function, they said.

The research team plans to conduct a second observational study to analyze the effects of walnut consumption during pregnancy, focusing on the cognitive development and psychological maturation of infants.

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