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Walnuts Help Curb Unhealthy Cravings

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There is much to be said about walnuts – they’re not only tasty, but they’re also healthy, making them an ideal snack. New research adds another benefit to walnuts: eating a handful of them can help improve overall nutrition. In addition, walnuts are recommended for diabetics, colon cancer survivors and obese people.

A team of researchers at the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center asked obese participants to go on a walnut diet, Tech Times reports. Ten participants were recruited to determine how exactly walnuts affect appetite and curb food cravings.

The volunteers stayed at the BIDMC’s Clinical Research Center (CRC) for two five-day periods, where they were given either a smoothie containing walnuts or a placebo smoothie that had the same taste. None of the participants knew what smoothie they were taking, in order not to influence their choices.

The researchers then used functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) to see if there were any changes in brain activity on day five of the trial. Participants were given photos of food that were considered either desirable or undesirable.

The study found that eating walnuts increases activity in the part of the brain that controls appetite. To be specific, they determines that there was more activity happening in the right insula for the people who drank the walnut smoothies when they saw the photos of desirable – unhealthy – food, like hamburgers. In short, the brain was telling the body that it felt too full at the time, which led to the participants choosing more nutritious options.

Olivia Farr, lead author on 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.

Dr. Christos Mantzoros, senior study investigator and BIDMC Human Nutrition Unit director said, “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.”

The study was published in Diabetes, Obesity, and Metabolism.

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