Eating walnuts daily reduces the number of LDL particles in your bloodstream, a predictor of cardiovascular disease risk. Walnuts are a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids and have been shown to be good for cardiovascular health.
The findings of the study were published in the American Heart Association’s flagship journal Circulation.
Consuming walnuts daily also reduced the number of LDL particles, a predictor of cardiovascular disease risk.
Walnuts are a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids, which have been shown to have a beneficial effect on heart health.
“Eating a handful of walnuts every day is a simple way to promote cardiovascular health. Many people are worried about unwanted weight gain when they include nuts in their diet,” said study co-author Emilio Ros, director of the Lipid Clinic, part of the Hospital Clínic in Barcelona, Spain, endocrinology and nutrition service.
“Our study found that the healthy fats in walnuts did not cause participants to gain weight.”
Nuts have always been beneficial
“Prior studies have shown that nuts in general, and walnuts, are associated with lower rates of heart disease and stroke. One of the reasons is that they lower LDL-cholesterol levels, and now we have another reason: they improve the quality of LDL particles,” said Ros.
“LDL particles come in various sizes. Research has shown that small, dense LDL particles are more often associated with atherosclerosis, the plaque or fatty deposits that build up in the arteries.”
This study was conducted from May 2012 to May 2016 and involved 708 participants between the ages of 63 and 79 (68% women) who were healthy, independent-living adults residing in Barcelona, Spain, and Loma Linda, California.
Among the key findings from all the study participants were:
- At 2 years, participants in the walnut group had lower LDL cholesterol levels, by an average of 4.3 mg/dL. Total cholesterol was lowered by an average of 8.5 mg/dL.
- Daily consumption of walnuts reduced the number of total LDL particles by 4.3% and small LDL particles by 6.1%. These changes in LDL particle concentration and composition are associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular disease.
- Intermediate Density Lipoprotein (IDL) cholesterol also decreased. It is known that IDL cholesterol is a precursor to LDL and refers to a density between that of low-density and very-low-density lipoproteins. In the last decade, IDL cholesterol has emerged as a relevant lipid cardiovascular risk factor independent of LDL cholesterol.
- LDL cholesterol changes among the walnut group differed by sex. In men, LDL cholesterol fell by 7.9% and in women by 2.6%.
“While this is not a tremendous decrease in LDL cholesterol, it’s important to note that at the start of the study all our participants were quite healthy and free of major non-communicable diseases. However, as expected in an elderly population, close to 50% of participants were being treated for both high blood pressure and hypercholesterolemia.
“Thanks in part to statin treatment in 32%, the average cholesterol levels of all the people in our study were normal,” Ros said. “For individuals with high blood cholesterol levels, the LDL cholesterol reduction after a nut-enriched diet may be much greater.”
According to the American Heart Association, walnuts are especially high in omega-3 fatty acids, the same heart-healthy fat found in oily fish. A serving size is a small handful or 42 grams of whole nuts or two tablespoons of nut butter.