Nuts, with their abundant supply of good-for-you fats and protein, have long been considered a balanced diet staple, but a new study suggests their impact is a bit more dramatic. The New York Times writes that researchers provided nine obese patients with smoothies made from approximately 14 walnut halves for five consecutive days while the patient’s brain activity was monitored with an MRI. Researchers found that when presented with images of high-fat foods like cake, a part of the brain that regulates appetite and impulse control — the insula — was activated. They did not observe an activation of the insula when patients were shown low-fat foods and neutral images, like trees. The insula activation suggests that the brain was triggered to deliver a sense of decreased appetite.
The study, which was funded by the California Walnut Commission (hmmm…), the Harvard Clinical and Translational Science Center, and others, claims that the walnut smoothies ignited the insula activity. And while it’s obvious that a much larger study is necessary to assert these claims, one might say that almonds — the sexy diet nut du jour — should be feeling a little nervous.