Eat walnuts to cut risk of heart disease

The findings of a new study could have many consumers reaching for walnuts

Walnuts, when combined with a diet low in saturated fats, were associated with reduced blood pressure in at-risk individuals, new study results suggest.

"When participants ate whole walnuts, they saw greater benefits than when they consumed a diet with a similar fatty acid profile as walnuts without eating the nut itself", Kris-Etherton said.

For the study, the researchers recruited 45 participants with overweight or obesity who were between the ages of 30 and 65.

The participants were asked to follow a diet rich in alpha-linoleic acid, which is found in walnuts. After a 2-week diet run-in, participants consumed three isocaloric weight-maintenance diets for a period of six weeks each. "So it seems like there's a little something extra in walnuts that is beneficial-maybe their bioactive compounds, maybe the fiber, maybe something else-that you don't get in the fatty acids alone".

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Roughly 12 percent of calories in the average American meal come from saturated fat, so the researchers chose to remove some of that fat and replace it with healthier vegetable oils.

The positive effects weren't simply due to cutting down on the amount of saturated fat dieters consumed, according to the study - saturated fats are often consumed from animal products like meat and butter, but are also found in some plant-based products, including coconut oil. So it appears that there is something additional in walnuts that are advantageous, might be their bioactive compounds or fiber or something entirely different that one can not find in fatty acids only.

"An average American diet has about 12 percent calories from saturated fat, and all of our treatment diets all had about seven percent, using walnuts or vegetable oils as a replacement", said researcher Alyssa Tindall. "As part of a low-SFA diet, the greater improvement in central diastolic blood pressure following the WD versus the oleic acid-replaced-ALA diet indicates benefits of walnuts as a whole-food replacement for SFA". The study says that walnuts in combination with a diet that is low in saturated fats or unhealthy fats from junk food, can actually help those pre-disposed to risks of heart diseases. They concluded by saying, "Cardiovascular benefits occurred with all moderate-fat, high-unsaturated fat diets".

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