Get nut cracking to improve your motor skills


My memories of Christmas always include struggling with the nutcracker and sending shards of shells flying across the room. Brazil nuts were the most intractable, but I liked their taste, whereas walnuts were hard work and I wasn’t very keen on their slight oiliness – though that may have been because they had been sitting in the bowl too long.

Now however I might have to change my mind as some new research shows that adding a moderate, but not high, amount of walnuts to an otherwise healthy diet may help the over 50′s to perform better at tasks that require motor and behavioural skills. Walnuts contain polyphenols, of which I have spoken in praise before, as well as other antioxidants and essential fatty acids.

The study appeared recently in the British Journal of Nutrition and they were looking at the fact that as we age our brain undergoes a number of changes that can result in altered or impaired functioning. Partly this is due to the fact that the ability of the connections between neurons to change in strength and function is lessened, and that there is also increased oxidative damage to our neural tissue.

The trial was done on rats as they apparently have similar brain makeup to ours – which gives me food for thought about some of my acquaintances, but never mind – and they were put on a diet which had either 2, 6 or 9 percent walnuts in it and a trial group that got no walnuts at all. The study found that in the older rats, the diets containing 2 or 6 percent walnuts were able to improve age-related motor and cognitive shortfalls, while the 9 percent walnut diet impaired reference memory.

In human terms, this means that if you eat 7 to 9 walnuts, a day then you could be positively affecting your cognitive and your motor skills, but no more than that or your memory might be affected. Another benefit is that you will also be providing yourself with exercise as you attempt to crack the nuts, in the shell is fresher, but watch out for those flying shells!

Folic acid can boost birth weight for healthier babies

April 18, 2009 by  
Filed under Vitamins & Supplements, Womens Health


I mentioned a few weeks ago the benefits of Omega-3 for premature babies and now there is further help to boost your baby’s birth weight by over 60 grams – and this is very good news for their long-term health. The British Journal of Nutrition has reported that supplementing the mother’s diet with of 400 micrograms of folic acid during the pregnancy is important for two reasons:

The prime reason is that babies with a low birth weight (defined as less than 5lb 8oz) have an increased risk of developing heart disease, diabetes, ADD and depression later in life and sadly their number is increasing. Secondly, being underweight indicates that they have not had their maximum growth potential in the womb as this is dependent on their receiving the correct balance of nutrients during the pregnancy and folic acid has an essential role to play in the normal production of protein, lipids and DNA. Taking the supplement while already pregnant was seen to result in a 40 per cent lower risk of having a child with low birth weight and in fact was even more marked in women having their second child as when they supplemented before conception they saw a 240g higher birth weight compared with first time mothers who didn’t take folic acid at all.

It is recommended in the UK that women take a 400 microgram folic acid supplement daily from the time of conception to the 12th week of pregnancy, in order to cut the rate of neural tube defects such as spina bifida. This is in addition to the 200 micrograms of folate that should be obtained from a healthy diet from sources like brown rice, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, asparagus, peas, and – interestingly – low calorie beer. Unfortunately, it seems that more than 90 per cent of women looking to start a family don’t have anywhere near this amount and so potentially are putting their children’s’ future health at risk.