A handful of peanuts a day drive dementia away, according to a new study.
Australian researchers say that eating peanuts every day in the long term could be the key for seniors who maintain and even improve memory and thinking skills.
Their study of over 4,800 Chinese adults over the age of 55 found that eating more than 10 grams of nuts a day – two teaspoons – was "positively associated" with better mental functioning – including improved thinking, reasoning and memory.
Chief researcher Dr. Ming Li states that the study is the first to report an association between cognition and core intake in older Chinese adults, providing important information on mental health problems – including dementia – faced by a population that aging.
The dott. Li, of the University of South Australia, said: "The aging of the population is one of the most important challenges of the 21st century.
"Not only do people live longer, but with the advancing age, they require additional health support that is exerting unprecedented pressure on elderly care services and health.
"In China, this is a huge problem, as the population is aging much faster than almost any other country in the world.
"Improved and preventive health care – including dietary changes – can help address the challenges facing an older population.
"By eating more than 10 grams – or two teaspoons – of nuts a day, older people could improve their cognitive function by up to 60% – compared to those who don't eat nuts – effectively averting what would normally be experienced as a natural decline of knowledge of a year ".
China has one of the fastest growing aging populations in the world. In 2029, China's population is projected to peak at 1.44 billion, with the relationship between young and old dramatically unbalanced by the increasing ranks of the elderly.
By 2050, 330 million Chinese will be over 65 and 90.4 million will be over 80, representing the largest world population in this older age group.
The World Health Organization (WHO) assumes that by 2020 the number of people aged 60 or over will exceed the number of children under the age of five.
The new study analyzed data from the China Health Nutrition Survey collected over 22 years, finding that 17% of participants were regular consumers of nuts, especially peanuts.
Dr. Li says that peanuts have specific anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects that can alleviate and reduce cognitive decline.
He said: "Walnuts are known to have a high content of fats, proteins and healthy fibers with nutritional properties that can lower cholesterol and improve cognitive health.
"While there is no cure for age-related cognitive decline and neurogenerative disease, the variations in what people eat are making improvements for older people."
The WHO estimates that, globally, the number of people with dementia is 47 million.
By 2030, the figure is expected to rise to 75 million and by 2050 cases of global dementia have almost tripled. China has the largest population of people with dementia.
The dott. Li added: "As people age, they naturally experience changes in conceptual reasoning, memory and processing speed.
"This is all part of the normal aging process.
"But age is also the strongest known risk factor for cognitive diseases.
"If we can find ways to help older people maintain their cognitive health and independence longer – even by changing their diet – then it's absolutely worth it."
The results were published in The Journal of Nutrition, Health and Aging.
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