Eat Walnuts For a Healthy Heart, New Study Confirms

Using walnuts regularly as part of a regular diet significantly improves the health of the heart and blood (cardio-vascular) system

Barcelona, Spain | Jonathan Gallagher / ANN

Using walnuts regularly as part of a regular diet significantly improves the health of the heart and blood (cardio-vascular) system, according to a recent study.

Research on 49 high cholesterol-level patients at the Hospital Clinic in Barcelona, Spain, showed that replacing two-thirds of the fat in the diet with that from walnuts reduced cholesterol levels significantly and reduced the risk of coronary heart disease by 11 percent.

“The two-year study conducted in my home town of Barcelona, Spain, showed that the use of walnuts further decreased cholesterol levels even of those on a low cholesterol Mediterranean diet that uses olive oil,” says Dr. Joan Sabaté, professor and chair of the department of nutrition, School of Public Health, at the Seventh-day Adventist-run Loma Linda University in California. Sabaté helped coordinate the study based on his experience with previous research and regularly visited the program.

“During my post-doctoral fellowship ten years ago, I worked on the Adventist Health Study which has tracked the impact of diet on health for many years,” comments Sabaté. “Out of 65 foods analyzed, the frequency of nut consumption was most related to cardio-vascular health. We discovered that the more frequently Adventists used nuts in their diet, the lower was the incidence of cardio-vascular disease. This confirms what Ellen White, one of our early church pioneers, said about the health benefits of nuts regularly consumed in small quantities.”

The positive benefits of nuts in lowering cholesterol has now been confirmed by a number of studies (see ANN Bulletin Feb. 22). The new study in Spain demonstrated the positive benefits in male and female patients aged 28 to 72 and was published in the Annals of Internal Medicine last month.

Sabaté continues to research the health benefits of nuts, and says that various types such as walnuts, pecans and almonds each have unique benefits for the cardio-vascular system.

“Walnuts are high in poly-unsaturated fats, such as alpha-linoleic acid, which are known to lower cholesterol levels,” says Sabaté. “Fats make up two thirds of walnuts by weight, which have an important and primary role in lowering cholesterol, along with providing plant proteins and fiber, micro-nutrients and phyto-chemicals.”

Since most western diets contain a higher proportion of saturated fats than a Mediterranean diet, it is expected that the dietary use of nuts would have an even larger impact on cholesterol levels and further reduced the risk of coronary heart disease. Seventh-day Adventists have long advocated the use of a plant diet based on fruits, vegetables, grains and nuts.