Are you a stressed out university student? Try these walnuts - study

Led by researchers from the University of South Australia, the study presents some truly nutty findings about stress relief at university.

 Walnuts (photo credit: INGIMAGE)
Walnuts
(photo credit: INGIMAGE)

Are you a university student dealing with stress and anxiety? A new study proposes a solution: Walnuts.

According to a recent study published in the peer-reviewed academic journal Nutrients, eating just two ounces (56 gr.) of walnuts per day can have significant benefits for one's mental health, especially against academic stress.

Led by researchers from the University of South Australia, the study presents its findings about stress relief at university.

The nutty professor? How can walnuts keep you less stressed?

As anyone in an academic environment can attest to, university can be particularly stressful. Whether due to high pressure and competitive atmosphere, difficult courses, heavy workloads, assignment deadlines or exams, the stress of university seems never ending - and that's all without the stress of student loan debts.

 Walnuts (credit: Wikimedia Commons) Walnuts (credit: Wikimedia Commons)

The stress can compound and get worse, fueling depression and anxiety, which lead to memory loss and other psychiatric conditions.

With all that in mind, many university students are eager to find some ways of relieving stress - especially in place of using other substances to cope.

One possible solution, however, is nutrition-based. Changing your diet could help impact one's gut microbiome, which in turn can impact the brain. This can help influence mood and mental health.

Nutrition-based solutions mean food. So why walnuts? 

Walnuts are already known to be healthy. With an abundance of healthy and helpful components such as vitamin E, melatonin and omega-3 fatty acids, among others, this nut has been thought to have beneficial effects on the brain. 

So with that in mind, it was time to test it. 

To figure this out, the researchers recruited several healthy male and female undergraduate students and were tasked with consuming walnuts, while also refraining from eating other nuts or fatty fish. Naturally, people with nut allergies were excluded.

The participants were then studied to see if this would have any benefit to mental health. This was assessed by having the participants provide blood, saliva and stool samples as well as filling out questionnaires on sleep habits, mental health, mood and so on.

So what were the results?

Ultimately, it was all positive. Participants who are walnuts saw reduced stress and improved sleep quality. 

Female students also saw improved diversity in gut bacteria, countering the negative effects of academic stress.

How did this happen?

Regarding preventing the negative consequences of academic stress, one possible explanation is the fact that walnuts raised protein and albumin levels, while also decreasing amylase levels.

Furthermore, the presence of melatonin may indicate that walnuts can improve sleep quality.

However, the study does have its limits. Chief among them is the fact that the COVID-19 pandemic interrupted the study. 

Despite this, the results are still promising, and adding one simple change to one's diet may do wonders for the mental health of beleaguered university students.

More research is needed, though, to see if this solution works.