by Evelyn J. Mocbeichel
Who doesn’t like to snack and munch on something crunchy to satisfy hunger pangs between meals? What is important is to select a snack that will be delicious and have positive health benefts. The snacking answer is simple, walnuts, which will lower bad cholesterol and may even reduce cardiovascular disease risk according to the American Heart Association (AHA).
The Circulation Journal Report states that eating about ½ cup of walnuts every day for two years modestly lowered levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, known as “bad cholesterol,” and reduced the number of total LDL particles and small LDL particles in healthy, older adults, according to new research published today in the AHA’s flagship journal. Walnuts are a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids (alpha-linolenic acid), which have been shown to have a beneficial effect on cardiovascular health. “Prior studies have shown that nuts in general and walnuts in particular, 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 study co-author Emilio Ros, M.D., Ph.D., director of the Lipid Clinic at the Endocrinology and Nutrition Service of the Hospital Clinic of Barcelona, Spain. “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. Our study goes beyond LDL cholesterol levels to get a complete picture of all of the lipoproteins and the impact of eating walnuts daily on their potential to improve cardiovascular risk.” A 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. Participants were randomly divided into two groups: active intervention and control. Those allocated to the intervention group added about a half cup of walnuts to their usual daily diet, while participants in the control group abstained from eating any walnuts. After two years, participants’ cholesterol levels were tested, and the concentration and size of lipoproteins were analyzed by nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy. This advanced test enables physicians to more accurately identify lipoprotein features known to relate to the risk of cardiovascular disease. Key findings of all study participants: At 2 years, participants in the walnut group had lower LDL cholesterol levels, by an average of 4.3 mg/dL, and 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. “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,” Ros said. “Our study found that the healthy fats in walnuts did not cause participants to gain weight.” The study was funded by the California Walnut Commission. For more healthy tips and info by the AHA visit heart.org or call 1-800-AHA-USA1