Nutrition: walnuts reduce unhealthy cholesterol

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Why you should eat walnuts every day

Eating a daily serving of walnuts over a two-year period reduces unhealthy LDL cholesterol while improving the quality of LDL particles in older people, according to a recent study.

When older healthy individuals consume 30 to 60 grams of walnuts every day for two years, it is associated with a slight reduction in low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL), a research team including experts from the Hospital Clínic de Barcelona reports from its recent study results. These were published in the English-language journal “Circulation”.

Walnuts rich in Omega-3-fatty acids

Only recently in the English-language technical periodical Nutrients a study was published, according to which regular walnut consumption increases the life expectancy, whereby a connection with the contained Omega-3-Fettsäuren is assumed.

Walnuts are generally a rich source of healthy omega-3 fatty acids (alpha-linolenic acid) and these fatty acids have been shown to have a positive effect on cardiovascular health, according to experts. For example, a study last year also showed that walnuts improve intestinal and heart health.

Walnuts strengthen health

One of the reasons walnuts are associated with lower rates of heart disease and stroke is their effect on LDL cholesterol levels, the researchers explain.

Effect on LDL cholesterol levels

However, the current study went beyond looking at LDL cholesterol levels to get a complete picture of all lipoproteins and effects of daily walnut consumption on cardiovascular health.

For example, LDL particles come in a variety of sizes and “research has shown that small, dense LDL particles are more commonly associated with atherosclerosis, which is plaque or fatty deposits that form in the arteries,” study author Dr. Emilio Ros explained in a press release from the American Heart Association…

The study therefore analyzed whether regular consumption of walnuts has beneficial effects on lipoproteins, regardless of a person’s diet or place of residence. The 708 participants were randomly divided into two groups. There was an active intervention group and a control group.

30 to 60 grams of walnuts daily

Participants in the intervention group added 30 to 60 grams of walnuts to their usual daily diet, while people in the control group refrained from eating walnuts. Finally, after two years, the changes in the participants’ cholesterol levels were examined and the concentration and size of lipoproteins were analyzed.

This allowed the experts to identify so-called lipoprotein characteristics known to be associated with the risk of cardiovascular disease.

Reduction of LDL cholesterol levels and total cholesterol

A total of 632 individuals completed the study and complete lipoprotein analyses were available from 628 participants. After two years of the study, participants in the intervention group were found to have lower LDL cholesterol levels (average 4.3 mg/dL) and total cholesterol was reduced by an average of 8.5 mg/dL.

Among these, daily consumption of walnuts reduced total LDL particles by 4.3 percent and small LDL particles by 6.1 percent. These changes in LDL particle concentration and composition may be associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular disease, the team said.

What is IDL cholesterol?

In addition, IDL cholesterol, which is a precursor to LDL and has a density intermediate between that of low-density and very-low-density lipoproteins, declined, the researchers report. Over the past decade, IDL cholesterol has emerged as a relevant cardiovascular risk factor that is independent of LDL cholesterol, they say.

Do men benefit more from walnut consumption?

Changes in LDL cholesterol in the walnut-consuming group differed by gender: men saw a 7.9 percent reduction in LDL cholesterol, while women saw a 2.6 percent reduction, the researchers report.

Stronger effect with high cholesterol?

The effect was relatively small, but since all participants were quite healthy at the start of the study, the reduction in LDL cholesterol after a nut-rich diet could be much greater in people with already high blood cholesterol levels, the team added.

Walnuts promote cardiovascular health

“Eating a handful of walnuts every day is an easy way to promote cardiovascular health,” Dr. Ros points out. While some people worry about unwanted weight gain if they include the nuts in their diets, he says the study showed that walnuts did not lead to weight gain in participants.

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