Eating a handful of walnuts per day may help reduce the risk, delay the onset, slow the progression of, or prevent Alzheimer's disease due to the anti inflammatory and anti-oxidative properties of the dry fruit, a study led by an Indian-American scientist has claimed.
These yet to be published findings are very promising and help lay the groundwork for future human studies on walnuts and Alzheimer's – a disease for which there is no known cure, researchers said.
"One in 10 people over the age of 65 suffer from Alzheimer's. However, the awareness about the disease is very less. It takes 10 years to show the symptoms. It is not diagnosed properly; people think it is just an old age symptom and they have started forgetting things," Dr Abha Chauhan from New York State Institute for Basic Research in Developmental Disabilities (IBR) in the US told PTI here.
"Oxidative damage and inflammation are two prominent features in the pathology of Alzheimer's disease and many other neurodegenerative diseases. Walnuts are very rich in anti inflammatory components and antioxidants," said Chauhan, lead researcher of the study and head of the Developmental Neuroscience Laboratory at IBR.
According to the Dementia India Report 2010, India is home to more than 70 million people older than 60 years as per the 2001 census.
The number of persons with dementia double every five years of age and so India will have one of the largest numbers of elders with this problem. Amyloid beta-protein (A beta) is the major protein of amyloid deposits in the brain of patients with Alzheimer's disease (AD).
Extensive evidence suggests neurotoxic effects of soluble oligomers of A beta, and the role of oxidative stress and inflammation in AD. According to the new study, walnuts are rich in antioxidant and anti-inflammatory components.
"We have previously reported protective effects of walnut extract against A beta-induced oxidative stress and cell death and beneficial effects of dietary supplementation of six per cent (T6) or nine per cent walnuts (T9) (equivalent to one or 1.5 ounce of walnuts per day in humans) on the memory, anxiety and learning skills in a transgenic mouse model of AD," researchers said.
One ounce is considered to be one serving of walnuts, and loosely translates to 12 to 14 halves, or 1/4 cup (about a handful). PTI