Good news for all nut lovers: According to a study by the University of South Australia, nut consumption could be the key to mental health in old age.

In a study of 4,822 Chinese adults over the age of 55, the researchers found that eating more than 10 grams of nuts per day was associated with improved neuronal function.

dr Ming Li, lead researcher on the study, said in a statement from the university that the study is the first to find a link between cognition and nut consumption in older adults.

The results provided important insights into the increasing cognitive health problems of older people, including diseases such as dementia.

“By eating more than 10 grams (or two teaspoons) of nuts per day, older people could improve their cognitive function by up to 60 percent compared to others who do not eat nuts,” Dr. Li summarizes the study results.

The mental deterioration that is otherwise perceived as normal for a period of two years can be prevented by consuming nuts.

The research team came to this conclusion after analyzing data from nine survey cycles of the ‘China Health Nutrition Survey’, which were collected over a period of 22 years.

When examining the data, the scientists noticed that 17 percent of the participants consumed nuts regularly. It was mostly peanuts.

The researchers then compared the mental health of precisely this group of people with the data from the rest of the participants – and came to the conclusion just mentioned.

The possible reason for the apparently positive effect of peanuts on the brain: Peanuts have specific anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects that could reduce cognitive decline, Li suspects.

“Nuts are known to be high in healthy fats, protein and fiber and have nutritional properties that may lower cholesterol and improve cognitive health,” the study leader continued.

As we get older, our conceptual thinking skills, memory, and processing speed decrease. This is a natural process that nothing can completely stop – at least so far.

“However, age is also the best-known risk factor for cognitive disorders. If we can help older people maintain their cognitive health and independence longer by changing their diet, it will be worth the effort,” Li said.

While there is no cure for age-related cognitive decline and neurodegenerative diseases, dietary adjustments, such as regular nut consumption, appear to improve mental health per se.

According to the announcement, China has one of the fastest growing population groups. In 2029, China’s population is expected to reach 1.44 billion, with the ratio between young and old people being extremely unbalanced due to demographic change.

By 2050, 330 million Chinese would be over 65 and 90.4 million over 80. That would be the world’s largest population in those two age groups.

“In China, health care is a massive issue because the population is aging much faster than in almost any other country in the world,” Li says.

Improved and preventive health care – thanks to findings like these – can help to successfully master the challenges of an aging population.