For men looking to start a family, a small new study is shedding light on an all-natural snack that might help their chances: walnuts.
University of California, Los Angeles researchers found that men who ate 75 grams of walnuts daily -- about two handfuls' worth -- in addition to their regular diets had an improvement in semen quality, compared with men who didn't eat the nuts.
"This study shows that what men eat is important, too," for couples looking to start a family, study researcher Wendie Robbins, a professor at UCLA, said in a statement.
The study included 117 men ages 21 to 35. About half of the men ate the 75 grams of walnuts each day for 12 weeks, while the other half ate a normal diet of Western-style food.
The researchers found that the men who ate the walnuts "experienced improvement in sperm vitality, motility, and morphology," while those who didn't eat the nuts "saw no change," they wrote in the Biology of Reproduction study.
Plus, men who ate the walnuts had increased levels of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, the researchers found.
"Walnuts provide a particularly rich source of a-linolenic acid, a natural plant source of omega-3, which we suspect may have been responsible for the improvements we observed," study researcher Catherine Carpenter said in a statement.
However, the study authors emphasized that more research is needed to see if eating walnuts actually works to improve chances of having a child for men who have trouble with fertility.
Walnuts are known for a multitude of other health benefits, too. To check them out, click through the slideshow:
Boost Your Brain
A <em>Journal of Alzheimer's Disease</em> study published earlier this year showed that <a href="http://iospress.metapress.com/content/w012188621153h61/fulltext.pdf" target="_hplink">eating walnuts</a> as part of a Mediterranean diet is linked with protection from brain functioning decline that occurs with aging. The study, conducted by Spanish researchers, included 447 people ages 55 to 80. Walnuts were linked with improved memory in the study participants, researchers found, but other kinds of nuts were not.
Eating nuts -- including walnuts! -- could help to lower your cholesterol if you consume them daily, according to a 2010 study. WebMD reported on the study, published in the <em>Archives of Internal Medicine</em>, which showed that eating about 2.4 ounces of nuts a day is linked with 7.4 percent <a href="http://www.webmd.com/heart-disease/news/20100510/eating-nuts-daily-lowers-cholesterol" target="_hplink">lower "bad" LDL cholesterol levels</a> and 5.1 percent lower total cholesterol.
Might Decrease Breast Cancer Risk
Marshall University researchers found that eating walnuts every day seemed to halve the risk of mice <a href="http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/233894.php" target="_hplink">developing breast cancer</a>, Medical News Today reported. Their findings, published in the journal <em>Nutrition and Cancer</em>, showed that even in the <a href="http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/233894.php" target="_hplink">mice fed walnuts</a> that <em>did</em> develop cancer, their tumors were smaller and fewer, according to Medical News Today.
Slow Down Prostate Cancer (In Mice)
Mice engineered to develop prostate cancer that were fed diets high in fat, including walnuts, had <a href="http://www.sciencenews.org/view/generic/id/57701/title/Science_%2B_the_Public__Walnuts_slow_prostate_cancer_growth" target="_hplink">slower-growing tumors</a> than mice fed diets that were low in fat, Science News reported. The researchers for that study, who presented their findings in 2010 at a meeting of the American Chemical Society, said that a possible reason for this effect are the <a href="http://www.sciencenews.org/view/generic/id/57701/title/Science_%2B_the_Public__Walnuts_slow_prostate_cancer_growth" target="_hplink">omega-3 fatty acids</a> and alpha linolenic acids found in walnuts, Science News reported.
Chock Full Of Antioxidants
Walnuts beat all the rest when it comes to maintaining a healthy ticker, according to a study presented last year the American Chemical Society. WebMD reported on the findings, conducted by researchers from the University of Scranton, which found that walnuts have <a href="http://www.webmd.com/food-recipes/news/20110328/walnut-may-be-top-nut-for-heart-health" target="_hplink">more antioxidants</a> than other nuts like cashews, hazelnuts, pecans and pistachios. "This study tells us something important about the <a href="http://www.webmd.com/food-recipes/news/20110328/walnut-may-be-top-nut-for-heart-health" target="_hplink">composition of walnuts</a>," Dr. David Katz, M.D., MPH, the director of the Yale University Prevention Research Center, who was not involved with the study, told WebMD.
Health Benefits of Walnuts
Flat Belly Diet creator Cynthia Sass, MPH, RD offers tips for adding tummy-flattening walnuts to your diet.