If you have frequent food cravings, munching on walnuts may be a good idea. A new study has found out that consuming walnuts daily may activate an area in your brain which decreases hunger.
According to researchers, walnuts are also thought to discourage overeating by promoting a feeling of fullness.
Study’s first author Olivia M Farr from Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center said that people often 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.
To determine exactly how walnuts quell cravings, the researchers used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to observe how consuming walnuts changes activity in the brain.
The scientists recruited 10 volunteers with obesity to live in BIDMC’s Clinical Research Center (CRC) for two five-day sessions. During one five-day session, the volunteers consumed daily smoothies containing 48 grams of walnuts.
During their other stay in the CRC, they received a walnut-free but nutritionally comparable placebo smoothie, flavoured to taste exactly the same as the walnut-containing smoothie.
The order of the two sessions was random, meaning some participants would consume the walnuts first and others would consume the placebo first.
The findings revealed that when the participants were shown pictures of highly desirable foods, fMRI imaging revealed increased activity in a part of the brain called the right insula after participants had consumed the five-day walnut-rich diet compared to when they had not.
This area of the insula is likely involved in cognitive control and salience, meaning that participants were paying more attention to food choices and selecting the less desirable or healthier options over the highly desirable or less healthy options.
The findings appear online in the journal Diabetes, Obesity and Metabolism.