As the population grows older certain conditions that affect memory such as dementia and Alzheimer’s are becoming a greater concern. A 2012 WHO article estimated that there are around 7.7 million new cases of dementia each year worldwide. They also estimated that there are 35.6 million people living with it. This n umber is predicted to double by 2030 and triple by 2050.

New research from the David Geffen School of Medicine has found that walnuts may improve performance on cognitive function tests, including those for memory, concentration and information processing speed.

A cross-sectional study examined walnut intake and cognitive functioning by analyzing available data across multiple National Health and Nutrition Examination surveys. Participants were aged 20-59 as well as 60 and over.

What the study found was that participants with a higher walnut consumption performed significantly better on a series of six cognitive tests regardless of age, gender or ethnicity.

The numerous active ingredients in walnuts can be seen as contributing factors in protecting cognitive functioning. Some of these ingredients are high antioxidant contents, the combination of numerous vitamins and minerals and walnuts are the only nut that contain a significant source of alpha-linolenic acid, which is a plant based omega-3 fatty acid with heart and brain benefits.

“It isn’t every day that research results in such simple advice – eating a handful of walnuts daily as a snack, or as part of a meal, can help improve your cognitive health,” says Dr. Lenore Arab lead study author.