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Walnuts can help lower depression, especially in women

The American Psychiatric Association (APA) says that, “depression (major depressive disorder) is a common and serious medical illness that negatively affects how you feel, the way you think and how you act.” – comments that depression, which is treatable, causes feelings of sadness and/or a loss of interest in activities once enjoyed. It can lead to a variety of emotional and physical problems and can decrease a person’s ability to function at work and at home.

It’s estimated that depression affects an estimated 1 in 15 adults in a given year – with 1 in 6 individuals likely will have depression at some point in their life.

Depressive symptoms may include feelings of sadness or having a depressed mood; loss of pleasure in activities once enjoyed; a change in appetite with the potential for either weight loss or gain unrelated to dietary changes; loss of energy or increased fatigue; and feeling of worthless or guilty.

Medical conditions, such as thyroid problems, brain tumors, or even a vitamin deficiency, need to be ruled out, before an accurate medical diagnosis of depression can be determined. Also, being sad, grief, and bereavement – normal responses to life events – do not equate to clinical depression – even though that person might comment that he they are “depressed.”

Research – Lower Depression Scores Among Walnut Consumers in NHANES (National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey) – published in the February issue of Nutrients – referenced that depression, especially in females, is a, “significant public health issue across the globe.”

Researchers from the David Geffen School of Medicine, University of California in Los Angeles, cite the fact that, “among women in the United States, the usage (of antidepressants) is almost twice as high as among men, approaching one in six women. Across all age groups, antidepressant usage has increased 65% over the past decade in the US.”

Prior research, especially as it applies to the Mediterranean (Med) Diet – with emphasis on fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts, fish, with moderate chicken intake, and limited red meat consumption -have been inversely associated with depression scores in the US.

Walnuts, which are a high source of alpha linolenic acid, a precursor to the Omega 3 essential fatty acids EPA and DHA, are an important component of the tree nuts on the Med Diet, which has been associated with brain health.

The UCLA investigators used the NHANES survey results from 2005 to 2014 – pooled data from 24-hour recall questionnaires of 26,656 participants who, “were characterized as reporting the consumption of walnuts with high certainty, walnuts with other nuts, other nuts, or no nuts” – with depression scores, which were based on recognized self-reporting responses (PHQ-9).

It was determined that, “direct comparisons of walnut consumers with other nut consumers demonstrate that the walnut consumer had significantly lower depressive symptom scores after covariate adjustments than other nut consumers.”

The researchers further stated that the depression scores, including those in the normal range, were lower among those walnut consumers. “These include greater interest in activities, higher energy levels, less hopelessness (among women), better concentration, and greater optimism. Nut consumption in general appears advantageous.”

It was concluded that, “a consistent association was observed between the consumption of nuts, and walnuts in particular, with fewer and less frequent depressive symptoms in a representative sample of the US population over the course of the past decade.”

The Geffen research group said that while the association of walnut consumption and lower depression score was consistent across both genders, it was, “consistently stronger among women than men. Lower depression scores among consumers of walnuts appear to be traced back to better concentration, higher energy levels, more interest in doing things, and greater self-control of rates of speech and movement.”

Once again, a relatively cost-effective way to improve the quality of life without medication.