Eating Walnuts Improves Moods of Men, Not Women


Believe it or not, the key to a happier mood for men could be as easy as eating a handful of walnuts. However, the same cannot be said for women.

University of New Mexico Nutrition Professor Peter Pribis conducted a study to measure the effect on walnut consumption on mood.

“In the past, studies on walnuts have shown beneficial effects on many health outcomes like heart disease, diabetes and obesity,” said Pribis. “Our study was different because we focused on cognition, and in this controlled randomized trial (CRT) we measured mood outcomes in males and females.”

Flickr Image Courtesy: noricum, CC BY-SA 2.0
Flickr Image Courtesy: noricum, CC BY-SA 2.0

Participants in the study consisted of 64 students, ages 18-25, who were among the Caucasian, African American, Hispanic and Asian ethnic groups.

The groups then consumed three slices of banana bread every day for sixteen weeks. They had eight weeks of banana bread with walnuts and eight without. The nuts were finely ground in the dough so they could not be detected by taste or appearance in the finished bread. Overall, during the weeks they ate walnut banana bread, participants each consumed a daily amount of a half cup of walnuts.

When the moods of the students were measured at the end of each eight-week period, the Profiles of Mood States (POMS) — a mood scale that monitors changes in depression, tension, anger, fatigue, vigor and confusion — showed a definite uptick in mood for the young, healthy men.

“There was a meaningful, 28 percent improvement of mood in young men,” said Pribis. “However we did not observe any improvement of mood in females. Why this is we do not know.”

Researchers cite several nutrients which are naturally in walnuts that could explain the mood improvement, like alpha-Linolenic acid, vitamin E, folate, polyphenols or melatonin.

But the overall synergy and interaction of all the nutrients in the walnuts ultimately contributed to the outcome because it was a whole food study. So the takeaway?

“Eat more walnuts. This is an easy intervention,” says Pribis. “They’re not only good for your mood, but overall health as well. The recommended amount is one handful per day.”