Year Published: 2023
Stephanie K. Nishi 1,2,3,4,5ORCID, Aleix Sala-Vila 3,6,*ORCID, Jordi Julvez 7,8ORCID, Joan Sabaté 9ORCID and Emilio Ros 3,10,*ORCID
Cognitive health is a life-long concern affected by modifiable risk factors, including lifestyle choices, such as dietary intake, with serious implications for quality of life, morbidity, and mortality worldwide. In addition, nuts are a nutrient-dense food that contain a number of potentially neuroprotective components, including monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids, fiber, B-vitamins, non-sodium minerals, and highly bioactive polyphenols. However, increased nut consumption relates to a lower cardiovascular risk and a lower burden of cardiovascular risk factors that are shared with neurodegenerative disorders, which is why nuts have been hypothesized to be beneficial for brain health. The present narrative review discusses up-to-date epidemiological, clinical trial, and mechanistic evidence of the effect of exposure to nuts on cognitive performance.
While limited and inconclusive, available evidence suggests a possible role for nuts in the maintenance of cognitive health and prevention of cognitive decline in individuals across the lifespan, particularly in older adults and those at higher risk. Walnuts, as a rich source of the plant-based polyunsaturated omega-3 fatty acid alpha-linolenic acid, are the nut type most promising for cognitive health. Given the limited definitive evidence available to date, especially regarding cognitive health biomarkers and hard outcomes, future studies are needed to better elucidate the impact of nuts on the maintenance of cognitive health, as well as the prevention and management of cognitive decline and dementia, including Alzheimer disease.