Objective: Peanuts contain bioactive nutrients beneficial for vascular function. This study investigated whether consumption of unsalted peanuts (with skins) would enhance cerebrovascular perfusion and cognitive performance.
Method: In a randomized crossover trial, 61 volunteers (29 males/32 females, 65 ± 7 years, BMI 31 ± 4 kg/m2) consumed their habitual diet ± high-oleic peanuts (56-84 g/day), each for 12 weeks. Nutrient intakes, vascular and cognitive function were assessed at baseline and at the end of each 12-week phase. Differences between the ends of each phase were compared by general linear repeated measures ANOVA controlling for baseline. Pearson's correlation analyses determined relationships between differences in cerebrovascular reactivity (CVR) and cognitive function.
Results: Intakes of bioactive nutrients increased during the peanut phase. CVR was 5% greater in the left middle cerebral artery (MCA) and 7% greater in the right MCA. Small artery elasticity was 10% greater after peanut consumption; large artery elasticity and blood pressure did not differ between phases. Measures of short-term memory, verbal fluency, and processing speed were also higher following the peanut phase; other cognitive measures did not change. Differences in CVR in the left MCA correlated with differences in delayed memory and recognition.
Discussion: Regular peanut consumption improved cerebrovascular and cognitive function; increased intakes of bioactive nutrients may have mediated these improvements. This clinical trial was registered with the Australian Clinical Trials Registry (ACTRN 12612000192886).
Keywords: Arterial elasticity; Cerebrovascular; Cognition; High oleic; Peanut.