The surprising health benefits of eating cashews

Shutterstock

As we get older, our nervous system begins to slowly atrophy. Waste accumulates, our spinal cord loses nerve cells, and both results in messages being transmitted and received less efficiently throughout the body.

Although this process is made inevitable with time, it can be delayed if the right precautions are in place.

A new report published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences elects cashews of all things among these.

The chemical compound found in cashew shells called anacardic acid has been previously studied to influence a protein important to cell repair called IL-33.

“Many neurological disorders stem from damage to myelin, the insulating material which wraps around nerves and provides optimal nerve conduction,” the authors wrote of the paper’s significance. “We previously found that IL-33, a chemical made in response to injury, was able to induce new myelin formation. In exploring compounds which can induce IL-33, we found that anacardic acid, a compound found in the plant kingdom, was able to promote the formation of new myelin.”

By using mice models, the researchers from Vanderbilt University were able to present their hypothesis more squarely.

All of the mice involved in the analysis were being treated for various demyelinating diseases, which is an umbrella term for conditions that cause damage to the protective covering of cells known as myelin.

Several serious neurological disorders are directly caused by damage undertaken by myelin.

In humans, multiple sclerosis (MS) is the most common demyelinating disease that affects the central nervous system, ahead of optic neuritis and swelling of the brain and spinal cord.

In sufferers of MS the immune system erodes the myelin sheath over time, causing scarring, vision loss, muscle weakness, muscle stiffness and spasms, loss of coordination, change in sensation, pain, changes in bladder and bowel function and even paralysis.

Early diagnosis can slow the progression of the condition but there is currently no cure for demyelinating diseases.

When administered the chemical compound found in cashew shells, IL-33 levels increased just like the authors thought they would. Paralysis in the mice also reduced and their myelin was restored.

“Given the known neuroreparative actions of IL-33 in experimental models of central nervous system (CNS) injury, we predicted that compounds which induce IL-33 are likely to promote remyelination,” the authors continued. “We found anacardic acid as a candidate molecule to serve as a therapeutic agent to promote remyelination. Addition of anacardic acid to cultured oligodendrocyte precursor cells (OPCs) rapidly increased expression of myelin genes and myelin proteins, suggesting a direct induction of genes involved in myelination by anacardic acid.”

Cashews are a great source of essential dietary fibers and acids important to overall health.

In addition to helping delay neurological decline, routine cashew intake can boost heart and hair health, prevent several serious blood disorders, and contribute to a healthy BMI.

“We believe that the actions of anacardic acid warrants further study for the treatment of demyelinating diseases,” the authors concluded.

Be sure to read the full report published in the PNAS journal linked above for more information about the role anacardic acid plays in cell restoration.