A new study conducted by researchers at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston showed that eating walnuts can help curb hunger. The study, conducted by Olivia M. Farr, Dario Tuccinardi, Jagriti Upadhyay, Sabrina M. Oussaada, and Christos S. Mantzoros, was published in the journal Diabetes, Obesity, and Metabolism on Aug. 17, 2017.
“We don’t often think about how what we eat impacts the activity in our brain,” Olivia M. Farr, Ph.D., instructor in medicine at BIDMC, and a co-researcher of the study said.
“We know people report feeling fuller after eating walnuts, but it was pretty surprising to see evidence of activity changing in the brain related to food cues, and by extension what people were eating and how hungry they feel,” she added, Medical Daily reported.
Participants were under scrutiny for two five-day sessions during the study. The nutritional intake of the volunteers was monitored during the course of the study. They consumed 48 grams of walnut every day — the amount prescribed by American Diabetes Association in their smoothies. They were then given a placebo drink that tasted the same but had not walnuts in them.
“To determine whether short-term walnut consumption could alter the neural control of appetite using functional magnetic resonance imaging, we performed a randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind, cross-over trial of 10 patients who received, while living in the controlled environment of a clinical research center, either walnuts or placebo (using a validated smoothie delivery system) for 5 days each, separated by a wash-out period of 1 month,” the study stated.
The participants were shown images of food, photos of flowers and then food items that will not generally be attractive enough to cause cravings, such as vegetables. The results are not surprising, people had a positive reaction to the pictures of the unhealthy food. The right insula of the brain, which is associated with control, became active when people saw those images while sipping on the walnut drink.
“This is a powerful measure,” said Christos Mantzoros, MD, also the director of Human Nutrition Unit at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center as well as professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School.
“We know there’s no ambiguity in terms of study results. When participants eat walnuts, this part of their brain lights up, and we know that’s connected with what they are telling us about feeling less hungry or more full,” he added, according to Medical Daily.
“Walnut consumption decreased feelings of hunger and appetite, assessed using visual analog scales, and increased activation of the right insula to highly desirable food cues,” the study reported.
“These findings suggest that walnut consumption may increase salience and cognitive control processing of highly desirable food cues, leading to the beneficial metabolic effects observed,” the study concluded.
Consumption of walnuts has been associated with a number of health benefits which include a minimized risk of heart disease, improved brain function and possible cancer prevention. Walnuts are generally healthy, however some people might to allergic to it. It might also lead to reduction of mineral absorption among certain individuals, according to Healthline.com.
The findings of this recent study were taken over a very short period of time and there are no guarantees on the fact that the effects will not wear off. Complex and structured studies are needed to draw a further concrete solution.