As the threat of Alzheimer's disease grows, a simple snack may offer some protection. Researchers in New York say via Eureka Alert that walnuts can help improve learning, memory, and motor skills and reduce anxiety—at least in mice.

The scientists, led by Dr. Abha Chauhan, fed mice different diets comparable to one ounce or 1.5 ounces of walnuts daily in humans. Those given the walnuts performed far better in mazes and other tests, the Washington Post reports.

"Our study adds to the growing body of research that demonstrates the protective effects of walnuts on cognitive functioning," Chauhan says. The antioxidants in walnuts may be responsible for the possible benefits, including lowering Alzheimer's risk and delaying its onset or progression.

Indeed, walnuts are second only to blackberries on a 1,100-item list of anti-oxidative foods, says Chauhan. The researcher's earlier work suggested that walnut extract could fight damage linked to amyloid plaques, which develop in patients' brains.

But be aware: The things are packed with calories, Consumer Affairs reports. The findings come at a time when Alzheimer's is expected to grow far more widespread among an aging Baby Boomer population.

In other good news in the fight against it, researchers recently were able to recreate it "in a dish," which should make it easier to test anti-Alzheimer's drugs.

This article originally appeared on Newser: Anti-Alzheimer's Weapon: Walnuts?

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