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Title: Role of walnuts in maintaining brain health with age

item Poulose, Shibu
item MILLER, MARSHALL - Tufts University
item Shukitt-Hale, Barbara

Submitted to: Journal of Nutrition
Publication Type: Review Article
Publication Acceptance Date: 11/4/2013
Publication Date: 4/1/2014
Citation: Poulose, S.M., Miller, M.G., Shukitt Hale, B. 2014. Role of walnuts in maintaining brain health with age. Journal of Nutrition. 144 (4 Suppl):561S-566S.

Interpretive Summary:

Technical Abstract: Due to the combination of population growth and population aging, increases in the incidence of chronic neurodegenerative disorders have become a societal concern, both in terms of decreased quality of life and increased financial burden. Clinical manifestation of many of these disorders takes years, with the initiation of mild cognitive symptoms leading to behavioral problems, dementia and loss of motor functions, assisted living, and eventual death. Lifestyle factors greatly affect the progression of cognitive decline with high risk behaviors including: unhealthy diet, lack of exercise, smoking, and exposure to environmental toxins. These factors each lead to enhanced oxidative stress and inflammation that ultimately depreciate the neuronal environment. While there exists an urgent need to develop effective treatments for age-related cognitive decline and neurodegenerative disease, prevention strategies have been underdeveloped. Primary prevention in many of these neurodegenerative diseases could be achieved earlier in life by consuming a healthy diet, rich in antioxidant and anti-inflammatory phytochemicals, which offers one of the most effective and least expensive ways to address the crisis. English walnuts (Juglans regia L) are rich in numerous phytochemicals including high levels of polyunsaturated fatty acids and offer potential benefits to brain health. Polyphenolic compounds found in walnuts not only reduce the oxidant and inflammatory load on the brain cells, but also improve inter-neuronal signaling, increase neurogenesis, and enhance sequestration of insoluble toxic protein aggregates. Evidence for the beneficial effects of consuming a walnut-rich diet is reviewed here.