Nuts Good For Your Cardiovascular Health

Michael Harper for — Your Universe Online

Doctors have long considered many nuts to be quite heart healthy. The fatty acids found in nuts along with high doses of fiber and vitamins are thought to reduce the levels of LDL, or “bad” cholesterol in the blood. Now, a team of Penn State researchers are parroting other studies that have found walnuts to be one of the healthiest nuts there is.

“We already know that eating walnuts in a heart-healthy diet can lower blood cholesterol levels,” said Penny Kris-Etherton, Distinguished Professor of Nutrition at Penn State in a statement.

“But, until now, we did not know what component of the walnut was providing this benefit. Now we understand additional ways in which whole walnuts and their oil components can improve heart health.”

In fact, the power of the walnut is so strong it can go to work in as little as 30 minutes. Kris-Etherton and teammate Claire Berryman found walnuts and the essential oil from these nuts is good at maintaining blood vessel function, as well as preserving important cells in the vessels. Their work will be published in the June 1st edition of the Journal of Nutrition.

In this random and controlled test, the Penn State researchers found 15 participants with high blood cholesterol levels and gave them one of four treatments — 85 grams of plain, whole walnuts, six grams of walnut skins, 34 grams of walnut meat with the fat removed, or 51 grams of essential walnut oil. The researchers also took measurements of the participants´ biochemical and psychological responses before they took part of the walnut study, then again at 30 minutes, one hour, two hours, four hours and six hours following the treatments.

After analyzing the results, Berryman, Kris-Etherton and team discovered taking different parts of the walnut even once affected the health of the participants´ vessels “favorably.” Specifically, eating walnuts whole helped HDL, or good cholesterol, remove excess cholesterols from the body.

“Our study showed that the oil found in walnuts can maintain blood vessel function after a meal, which is very important given that blood vessel integrity is often compromised in individuals with cardiovascular disease,” said Berryman in a statement. Berryman is a graduate student in nutritional sciences at Penn State.

“The walnut oil was particularly good at preserving the function of endothelial cells, which play an important role in cardiovascular health.”

Previous research has shown these nuts contain alpha-linolenic acid, gamma-tocopherol and phytosterols, which all play a role in heart health. The team now says they could use these findings to improve existing diet strategies used to fight heart disease.

“The science around HDL functionality is very new, so to see improvements in this outcome with the consumption of whole walnuts is promising and worth investigating further,” said Berryman. As it stands, the researchers are suggesting those with high LDL levels make a few dietary changes, including incorporating more walnut oil.

This isn´t the first study to hail walnuts as an incredibly heart healthy food. Previous research has found walnuts to be the best nut for your heart.

”Nuts are good for your heart,” said Joe Vinson, PhD, a researcher at the University of Scranton in Pennsylvania in a March 2011 study.

“Twenty-eight grams of walnuts (an ounce) have more antioxidants than the sum of what the average person gets from fruits and vegetables,” he said. “That is not to say they are a replacement for fruits and vegetables, but they are very antioxidant dense.”